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A Look At Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Written by Courteney

Posted on August 22, 2016 at 7:00 pm


Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus, a group of serious systemic autoimmune diseases. Combined forms of lupus affect at least 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide. SLE can range from a mild case with infrequent flare-ups that may not require daily medication, to severe or life-threatening forms with frequent flare-ups that destruct organs and cause lengthy hospital stays.

A Need for Even More Awareness

Unfortunately, like many invisible disabilities, lupus and other rare autoimmune diseases remain ‘mysterious’ and don’t elicit all the understanding and recognition other more obvious diseases garner. Even though many people have heard the term ‘lupus’, it still remains a mystery disease to most, causing people to make up their own misinformed conclusions about its sufferers. Many people believe “she looks fine, so she must be fine” but with diseases like lupus, this is most often not the case. A sufferer may be experiencing serious joint pain, extreme fatigue, mental fogginess or painful internal inflammation while appearing relatively healthy to an onlooker.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Fast Facts

  • Lupus causes the immune system to attack itself, producing autoantibodies that lead to systemic inflammation.
  • Over 90% of lupus sufferers are women.
  • According to the Lupus Foundation of America, “African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are diagnosed with lupus two or three times more frequently than Caucasians”
  • Lupus usually strikes between adolescence and middle-age, but can afflict children in rare cases.
  • There is no one specific test for lupus, however, a series of blood tests such as the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test as well as inflammatory markers are used along with other factors to diagnose lupus.
  • Doctors also rely on the patient’s symptoms, other tests like skin biopsies, physical examinations, family history and medical history to make the diagnosis.
  • Lupus is hard to diagnose because many lupus symptoms mimic those of other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma and fibromyalgia. Symptoms go in and out of remission, also making the disease difficult to detect.
  • It is possible but unlikely to be diagnosed with lupus if you have normal ANA panel results and no signs of the disease in other pertinent blood tests. These results may show positive later in life as the disease often doesn’t show itself early.
  • The Lupus Foundation of America asserts that it takes an average of 6 years from the onset of symptoms until someone receives a definitive diagnoses of lupus. Many are diagnosed in less time, but many more wait much longer.
  • Lupus can cause many complications such as kidney problems, heart failure or other organ failure.
  • Lupus is the leading cause of premature stroke and heart disease among young women.
  • SLE can affect the whole body: the joints, all organs and blood.
  • At least 30% of lupus patients routinely experience the notable lupus ‘butterfly rash’ across the face, medically known as a malar rash, and about two thirds experience photosensitivity.
  • Pregnant women who have lupus are ‘high risk’ but most women who have lupus can have successful pregnancies during symptom-free periods.
  • Mental health issues like anxiety or depression are common among lupus sufferers.
  • While living with lupus is never easy, today’s medical technology and many medication options enable the vast majority of lupus patients to have a better quality of life and see the same life expectancy as those without lupus.
  • Treatments vary depending on the severity of the disease, but may include immunosuppressant, anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone, anti-malarial medications, NSAIDs, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and medications used to treat co-morbid afflictions such as hypertension.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of lupus are varied and plentiful, most sufferers experience the disease and its symptoms differently. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Facial rash
  • Menstrual problems
  • Fever
  • Weight changes (usually loss)
  • Chest pain
  • Hair loss
  • Dry eyes or mouth
  • Easy bruising and scarring accompanied by slow healing
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Stomach issues
  • Mouth or nose sores
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Pleurisy

There is so much more to this complex disease, but this is a good start. Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions about lupus or its symptoms, sign up today for a video consultation with one of our board certified DocChat physicians!

 

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