About Lupus

So you have lupus …………

Final ButterflySystemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is a presently incurable, but in most cases manageable, illness of the immune system, a condition in which the body’s defence mechanism begins to attack itself through an excess of antibodies in the blood stream causing inflammation and damage in the joints, muscles and other organs.

The majority of lupus patients are young women aged 16-55 but men and even young children can be affected.

Lupus may be triggered by various means and can present in a bewildering number of ways, even to the extent of mimicking other illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Multiple Sclerosis.  The cause of lupus is not known, although research has provided evidence implicating heredity, hormones, environmental factors and infections including viruses.

The name systemic implies that almost any organ or system within the body may be affected. Lupus is perhaps the classical multi-symptom illness and can often be overlooked by a GP or consultant, which may delay final diagnosis and a vital start to necessary treatment which can contain the disease and limit potential damage to the kidneys, heart, lungs or brain.

Those diagnosed usually remain in medical care and receive ongoing treatment. Many symptoms will have less impact but there may be side effects from the drug treatments.

Lupus can adversely affect the lives of patients and their families and influence relationships with friends and business colleagues.

Cutaneous and Discoid Lupus are usually conditions of the skin alone although the joints may be affected. Very few patients may go on to develop Systemic Lupus.

LUPUS IS NEITHER CONTAGIOUS NOR INFECTIOUS

The Symptoms

Lupus is a disease which can present many different facets, rarely do two people have exactly the same symptoms, and these can vary from just one to many: It is also important to remember that lupus is a fluctuating condition and not all patients will have all of the symptoms all of the time.

Although there are many possible manifestations of lupus, those listed below are some of the more common.

  • Joint/muscle aches and pains
  • Permanent rash over cheeks
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Rashes from sunlight/UV light
  • Flu-like symptoms and/or night sweats
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Inflammation of the tissues covering internal organs with associated chest and/or abdominal pain
  • Seizures, mental illness or other cerebral problems
  • Headaches, migraine
  • Kidney problems
  • Oral/nasal ulcers
  • Hair loss
  • Depression
  • Haematological disorders including anaemia
  • Swollen glands
  • Poor blood circulation causing the tips of fingers and toes to turn white then blue on exposure to cold

A person with lupus may have four or five symptoms – some of these might recede and/or others develop.

Summary

  • Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can be mild or life-threatening.
  • The most common forms of lupus are the milder forms, and most people with lupus enjoy a full life.
  • There is no cure, but lupus and its symptoms can be controlled with medication.

There is detailed information about lupus, the symptoms and treatments on LUPUS UK’s website www.lupusuk.org.uk