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Know Lupus: Simple and Simplified

Did you know that certain Hollywood celebrities like Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga suffer from Lupus?

Pic: Selena Gomez, a Hollywood celebrity

Selena Gomez even had to get a kidney transplant as her kidneys started failing due to the disease. In case you have not heard what Lupus is, it’s time to LEARN SOMETHING NEW!

What is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues. This results in widespread inflammation causing many tissues to be affected. There is no cure for lupus but medical management and lifestyle changes may reduce the flare ups.

Are There Different Types of Lupus?
There are many different types of lupus but Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and the most serious type of lupus:

Pic: SLE simplified in a diagram

•Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) affects the important organs like skin, joints, kidneys and central nervous system in the body.

Other types of lupus are:

Pic: Skin lupus all over a woman’s body

Cutaneous lupus (skin lupus) that affects the skin all over the body in the form of rash or lesions.

Pic: Prescription drugs can cause lupus

Drug-induced lupus due to an adverse reaction with medications. Symptoms usually occur 3 to 6 months after starting a medication, and disappearing once the medicine is stopped.

Pic: A newborn suffering from neonatal lupus

Neonatal lupus occurs when a pregnant mother passively passes lupus antibodies to her unborn baby. The baby’s health issues usually resolve by 6 months, but occasionally—congenital heart block may occur in child that requires a pacemaker to be fitted in.

What causes Lupus?
The cause of lupus is largely unknown but is believed to be linked to environmental, genetic, and hormonal factors.

Pic: Our genetic coding. A change in genetic coding can cause our health to become whack.

(i) Genetics
•Lupus isn’t linked to a particular gene. However, those who have family members who have autoimmune diseases are at a higher risk to get lupus.

Pic: Global warming is changing our environment.

(ii) Environment
Environmental triggers include:
•ultraviolet rays
•certain medications
•physical or emotional stress

Pic: Fluctuating oestrogen causes acne in women

(iii) Hormonal
The proportion of women affected by lupus is higher than men. Researchers hypothesise that the hormone oestrogen may be a contributing factor in causing lupus. However, more research is needed to prove this theory.

Signs & Symptoms of Lupus

Pic: A common manifestation of Lupus – Red, butterfly shaped rashes

Those with lupus experience many symptoms namely fatigue, skin rashes, fevers, pain and swelling in the joints. These symptoms flare often and sometimes may go away for a period of time (known as remission).

The common symptoms are:
• Red, butterfly shaped rashes
• Hair loss
• Sun or light sensitivity
• Kidney problems
• Mouth sores
• Prolonged or extreme fatigue.

Pic: A blood test is the preliminary method to diagnose lupus.

How is Lupus diagnosed?
•Lupus will be diagnosed by a rheumatologist after a series of symptom assessments, blood tests, physical examination, X-rays, and lab tests.
•Lupus can be hard to diagnose because it has many symptoms that are often mistaken for other diseases.

Pic: Immunosuppressant drugs such as corticosteroids improve the quality of life of patients.

How is Lupus treated?
•Lupus treatment mainly consists of immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids that inhibit activity of the immune system.
•The treatment goals are to suppress the overactive immune system to prevent permanent organ damage. The ultimate goal is to induce remission.
•Treating lupus often requires a team approach because of the number of organs that can be affected. The medications prescribed are also based on the symptoms.

Pic: Lupus facts

1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Centres for Disease Control & Prevention.
2. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease.

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