Lupus: What is This Disease and What are the Symptoms?

Lupus is a disease that affects mostly women but there are some men that can develop lupus also. It is an autoimmune disease that can affect almost every part of the body. Lupus is an inflammatory condition where the immune system fails to recognize foreign substances called antigens in the body and it’s own cells. The immune system than makes antibodies to attack normal cells, in a sense, the body starts attacking itself. The combination of the new antibodies and the antigens work to form an immune complex that causes inflammation and pain.

Most people suffer from achy joints, a high fever, arthritis, fatigue, skin rashes, and Anemia. It is a painful disease that can keep a person from participating in normal everyday activities. Some people only suffer mild symptoms while others are faced with more serious, even life-threatening problems. There are three different types of lupus conditions. Discoid, Systemic, and Drug induced. Discoid is associated and limited to the skin. A rash appears somewhere on the face, neck, and scalp. Systemic is more serious and can affect any organ in the body. For some, systemic affects the joints and in others it can affect the kidneys, blood, lungs, and other organs. Symptoms are never identical and symptoms go into remission and other times flare up. Systemic lupus is the most common form of lupus.

Drug induced occurs after using certain prescribed drugs. The symptoms are similar to systemic lupus. The drugs that are mostly associated with developing lupus are hydralazine (used to treat high blood pressure or hypertension) and procainamide (used to treat irregular heart rhythms). This form of lupus is more common in men who take these prescriptions. However, not everyone who takes these drugs will develop lupus. Unfortunately, the cause of lupus is not known and there is no cure for the disease. Some doctors believe there is a genetic predisposition to the disease, but others believe environmental factors play a part in developing lupus. Some of these environmental factors include extreme stress, drugs, infections, and ultraviolet light.

Lupus can occur at any age and in any sex, although, it occurs 10-15 times more frequently in women. Hormonal factors may suggest why lupus occurs in women more than men. African Americans, American Indians, and Asians are more likely to develop lupus. For most people, treatment alleviates the pain, aches, and inflammation associated with lupus. Preventive measures can help reduce flares. Using sunscreen lotions or avoiding direct sunlight can reduce rashes. Regular exercise can strengthen muscles and joints and fatigue. And, of course, habits such as, smoking, drinking, and using extensive prescription medications can agitate the disease and cause flares. Prescription medications that are used to treat lupus are: Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs, Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, Corticosteroids, Antimalarials, Immunomodulating Drugs and Anticoagulants.

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