10 things you need to know about Lupus

Posted on May 07, 2018

First thing we need to know about lupus is—most paramount—what lupus is. Basically, lupus is a classic autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system, the one we rely on to fight off colds and viruses, suddenly turns against us, uncontrollably, and destroys our otherwise normal and healthy organs and tissues. Our immune system secretes antibodies, warriors against bacteria and foreign threats. In lupus, our system becomes confused as to which is which—which tissue is healthy, and which tissue has a threatening agent.

Second, lupus is systemic. Systemic is when its manifestations are widespread across the different organs of the body, as most autoimmune diseases are. It can affect your skin, face, scalp, gastrointestinal tracts, renal and circulatory systems, muscles and joints, and brain and mental functions! However, not all people exhibit the same symptoms.  

Third, its epidemiology states that women are more affected than men, especially within the age range of fifteen to forty five, child bearing age. Races of higher risk include African Americans, Hispanics, and Caribbeans. Also, it is estimated that five million people worldwide have lupus.

Fourth, lupus has different terms. Another name for lupus is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), as this term better describes the all-encompassing damages of lupus to the body. Under SLE, there are various names to remember owing to the different organ affectations mentioned above. There’s the central nervous system or the CNS lupus for damages such as cognitive impairment, increased risk for stroke, movement disorders, and seizures. There’s renal lupus nephritis, lupus’ severest symptom, that damages the kidneys. There’s also Jaccoud’s for symmetric, small joint involvement, Felty’s for blood-related involvement; and drug-induced lupus.  

The fifth is a follow-up to the drug-induced lupus erstwhile stated. Lupus can be caused by drugs. The side effects of certain drugs mimic lupus symptoms such as pain in the joints, arthritis, rashes, fever, and fatigue. Drugs associated with lupus are: Procainamide to combat irregular heartbeat; Hydralazine for dilating arteries; Isoniazid, an antibiotic; methyldopa, an antidepressant; and chlorpromazine, an anti-psychotic.

Sixth, lupus is a journey of relapse and exacerbation. Flare ups of symptoms can be mild or severe, one can only manifest coin shaped rashes on the scalp, face, or jaw, and then the next thing you know, you are experiencing large joint arthritis! Pregnancy is also a factor for flare ups.

Seventh, there is no one way to diagnose lupus. Lupus is difficult to diagnose because of how it mimics symptoms of other conditions. For instance, people who has taken a lupus test are positive for antinuclear antibodies, or cells that target own healthy tissue. Confusingly enough, some people without lupus can score positive with this test. Therefore, this one test cannot be reliable enough. A doctor has to make sense of a variety of symptoms one is experiencing, a detailed history of the person and his family, as well as lab tests to confirm and eliminate different illnesses.

Eight, lupus can cause death. As morbid as it sounds, think about it. If your own immune system is compromised and can’t even sort if a tissue has foreign threats or is a healthy one, then this is a perfect chance for viruses and bacteria to enter the body and cause severe infection. Another is the lupus nephritis that inflames the kidneys. Central nervous system lupus is also fatal. However, the most common cause of death due to lupus is cardiovascular issues.

 Ninth, lupus can cause psychosis. Seems unconnected? I’m afraid not. Central nervous system lupus affects the brain and consequently the parts of the brain that constitute the psychological makeup. Psychosis is a mental disorder that defects a person’s thought processes. There is a presence of hallucinations and delusions. Good news though, this only happens to three to five percent of lupus cases.

Tenth, there is no one treatment for lupus, as there is no cure. There is no panacea that can remedy all the symptoms of lupus in the different bodily organs. We can have ibuprofen for joint pain and swelling; anti-malarial drugs for rashes, arthritis, and fatigue; steroid creams for those blemishes; corticosteroids and immunosupressants for kidney problems; so on and so forth. The point is, even if the diagnosis of lupus is still there, we can control its symptoms through appropriate medications.