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Healthy Living

October is Lupus Awareness Month

Lupus

Lupus is a chronic disease that, for unknown reasons, causes the immune system to attack the body's own cells and tissue, especially the skin, joints, blood, heart, lungs, and kidneys. The body's immune system normally makes proteins called antibodies to protect the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials called antigens.

In an autoimmune disorder such as lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances (antigens) and the body's own cells and tissue. Unable to make this distinction, the immune system then produces antibodies that attack the body's healthy tissue and cause damage to vital organs.

Lupus is a very complicated, confusing and erratic disease. It can range from being a mild disease affecting only a few organs, to one that can cause serious and even life-threatening health problems. Two major causes of morbidity and mortality from lupus are kidney disease and the drugs used to treat lupus.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Lupus
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because there is no single test that can tell whether a person has lupus or not. An Lupus Foundation of America survey revealed that half of the lupus patients responding reported they saw three or more doctors over four or more years before obtaining a diagnosis of lupus.

Common symptoms of lupus include

  • achy or swollen joints,
  • extreme fatigue,
  • fevers,
  • skin rashes, especially in the shape of a butterfly across the cheeks and bridge of the nose,
  • anemia,
  • excessive protein in the urine,
  • pleurisy,
  • photosensitivity,
  • hair loss,
  • abnormal blood clotting,
  • fingers turning white and or blue in the cold,
  • seizures, and
  • mouth or nose ulcers.

Lupus is a complicated disease that can affect many different organs. It is an unfortunate reality about lupus that there is no cure. However, medications are available to treat symptoms of the disease. These medications include

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
  • acetaminophen,
  • corticosteroids,
  • antimalarials, and
  • immunosuppressive drugs.

Some of these drugs can cause other health problems through their use over time. While clinical trials are underway on several new therapies, no new drugs to treat lupus have been approved for several decades.

Although most lupus patients respond well to treatment and go on to live a normal lifespan, lupus can quickly become life-threatening. Tragically, many patients die from lupus complications every year. Some people with lupus require frequent hospitalization. Treatment of lupus requires the participation of many different medical specialists and expensive specialized testing and procedures. It is not uncommon for a person with lupus to take a dozen expensive medications at a time.

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