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Understanding Lupus

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Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack healthy organs, cells and tissues by mistake. It can cause widespread inflammation throughout your body.

It is a serious sometimes fatal disease affecting more women than men, between the ages of 15-44 years old. It is a systemic disease which means that it can affect many different organs at the same time.

There are a number of different types of lupus including:

- Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common form of lupus which can cause multi-organ involvement

- Discoid lupus is when there is skin involvement causing itchy flaking skin and you may have a rash on your cheeks and over the bridge of your nose

- Drug induced lupus is caused by certain medications you may be taking. Once you go off the medications, the lupus should subside

Symptoms:

Fatigue

Slight fever

Confusion

Memory loss

Headaches

Panic attacks

Depression

Chest pains

Hair loss

Seizure

There are a wide variety of symptoms that can be different in each person making the diagnosis of lupus difficult because the symptoms can mask other illnesses.

Causes:

Doctors don't know the exact cause of lupus, but there are some factors that may be of significance.

Something can trigger the immune system to attack organs or tissues

Environmental factors such as exposure to toxins, pesticides, stress and even your diet

Having infections such as epstein-barr syndrome

Hepatitis C

Certain medications

Muscle or joint pains

Arthritis

Genetics may play a role in who gets lupus. If you have a family member with lupus, you can be at risk, but the risk is very low

Sunlight, a very high percentage of lupus individuals can not be out in the sun

Diagnosis:

As there is no one blood or urine test that will confirm lupus, the American College of Rheumatology has a list of criteria made up of 11 symptoms, out of those 11 you should have at least 4 of them.

Criteria:

-butterfly (malar) rash that covers the cheeks and the bridge of the nose

-discoid rash causing your skin to be itchy and flake easily

-sensitivity to sunlight

-mouth sores

-arthritis

-with swollen joints

-kidney problems in which there is to much protein or red blood cells in your urine

-neurological symptoms

-immunologic disorder-anti DNA or anti-SM or positive antiphospholipid antibodies

-inflammation in the lining of the heart or kidneys

-low white blood cells or decrease in blood platelets

-abnormal blood work in which a positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) is positive

Treatment:

There a few different ways lupus can be treated depending on your symptoms, but usually standard NSAIDS such as, advil, motrin, or ibuprofen may be of help. Use ibuprofen with caution as it may cause kidney damage. Acute symptoms with severe inflammation may require the use of steroids which can often cause other health concerns, so great care should be taken while on them.

Eating a diet rich in omega 3’s such as tuna, salmon or mackerel, low fat dairy products, whole grain carbohydrates and a colorful array of fruits and vegetables can also help tremendously.

Prognosis:

Lupus symptoms can come and go suddenly, this is referred to as being in a flare or being in remission when you have no symptoms.

A flare is when your symptoms increase and management is difficult and there is no specific time frame for a flare so patience is the key word here.

Be aware of how your body feels if you are in a flare, make an appointment to see your rheumatologist to discuss treatment options. You may require blood work which will help you and your doctor to put a plan in place.

People with lupus may run a higher risk of having cancer in the form of leukemia, lymphoma or breast cancer. Women should be tested more frequently for heart disease, in specific coronary artery disease (CAD) high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

If you are overweight this may cause more problems, so a diet free of fried fatty foods and processed foods will be of great help. Eliminating processed foods may be necessary.

Exercise should be apart of your everyday life. There are many forms of exercise you can do without breaking a sweat such as, Yoga using a chair, it is a great workout for stretching and strengthening your muscles. It doesn’t matter if you can’t bend over and touch your toes, it’s the little things to be grateful for and proud you are able to do them.

A few great exercises, especially when in a flare, is light water aerobics. Do some simple stretches or challenge yourself to either water walking or water running because they have no impact on their joints.

Having lupus does not mean your life has ended, think of it as a new challenge learning new things and taking charge of your health.

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