Lupus: Symptoms, treatment, causes and related complications

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus(SLE) is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues.

Lupus treatment and symptoms

This condition cannot be cured but treatment can help to reduce the effects of its symptoms.

It can affect different parts of the body including; blood cells, brain, kidneys, skin, joints, and lungs.

CAUSES OF LUPUS

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy body tissues instead of harmful germs, bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Researchers have not managed to unveil the actual causes of lupus until now but they argue there is a link between genetic and environmental factors. They argue that if a person is born with genes that are vulnerable to lupus infection, there is a likelihood of getting the disease when exposed to environmental triggers.

There are other factors that have been linked to being possible causes of lupus and they include;

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Certain medications
  • Having certain diseases
  • Sunlight exposure

Age

Age is linked to being a likely trigger and can be one of the causes of lupus.

According to the diagnosis that has been carried on most patients, it has been established that this disease is very prevalent between the age of 15 – 45 years. This age bracket is termed as the active age.

Below 18 years, it has been established that this disease is common in only 15% of the people who are later diagnosed with this disease.

Gender

Gender has been identified to be one of the risk factors of this disease.

Researchers have established that lupus is very common in women than in men. Women are 9 times likely to suffer from lupus than men. This could be due to the differences in quantities of hormone estrogen but no real scientific study backs up the link between estrogen and this disease.

Race

Race is another predisposing factor that has been linked to being among the causes of lupus infection.

Doctors, according to monitoring their patients, have argued that a person can be at a higher risk of suffering from this disease if they are from certain races.

The races that are most prevalent to this disease are;

  • African-Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Asian-Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Native Hawaiians
  • Asian
  • Pacific Islander

Though, there is no scientific study to support this theory.

Certain Medications can also trigger lupus

Being on certain medical procedures has been found to be able to trigger lupus infection.

Taking drugs used for the treatment of blood pressure and seizures have been found to be able to trigger this infection.

Taking antibiotics has also been linked to being the possible triggers of this disease.

Those who get lupus due to the use of certain medications always get better after stopping the medications but in a few cases, the disease can persist.

Having certain diseases

Having certain diseases can increase the possibility of suffering from lupus infection. Some diseases affect the immune system and can invoke an autoimmune process and this will likely cause lupus to occur.

Sunlight exposure

Exposure to sunlight can cause skin lesions or even trigger an internal reaction in people who are susceptible.

The internal reaction can possibly be an autoimmune reaction and it will obviously leads to infection.

Sunlight exposure has also been linked to causing the symptoms of lupus to worsen in some people.

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COMPLICATIONS DUE TO LUPUS INFECTION

The inflammations caused by lupus have been found to cause complications to certain body organs and also trigger some 2nd face infections.

The complications include;

  • Kidney disease – Lupus has been found to be able to cause serious damage to the kidneys and this, later on, causes kidney infections
  • Cardiovascular diseases and heart disease – This disease can cause extreme inflammations on the heart muscles, arteries, and heart membrane. This predisposes a person to heart diseases.
  • Avascular necrosis – This is also known as bone tissue death. This occurs due to a reduction in blood supply to the bone tissue. The reduction in blood supply is due to the inflammation of arteries which affects its ability to allow effectivity blood flow. The break of blood supply to the bone tissue eventually causes tiny breaks in the bone and then the bone collapses.
  • Cancer – Researchers, though the study is not conclusive, have established that people with lupus have a higher likelihood of suffering from leukemia, which is a type of cancer that affects the blood.
  • Lung infections – People with lupus have a higher possibility of developing inflammations of the chest cavity lining and this will cause a person to feel pain when breathing. This will even lead to pneumonia.
  • Brain disorders – Lupus can cause brain problems to develop. When the brain is affected, the person will start having memory problems and they may also have difficulty expressing their thoughts or feelings.

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SYMPTOMS OF LUPUS

The symptoms of lupus can greatly differ depending on the part of the body that has been affected but there are those symptoms that are common almost in every individual.

The symptoms of lupus are;

  • Painful joints
  • Butterfly-shaped rashes on the face
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Headaches and memory loss
  • Arthritis – the joints may swell
  • Swelling of ankles and stiffness
  • Hair loss can also happen
  • Seizures might be experienced
  • Sores on the mouth and nose
  • Fingers turn pale or purple
  • Hair loss might happen

DIAGNOSIS

The diagnosis of lupus can be hectic as there is no single method that can be used to deduce the presence of it.

Doctors use several testing procedures to establish this.

Methods that can be used in the diagnosis of lupus are;

  • Symptoms observation
  • Physical observation
  • Blood and urine assessment test
  • Medical imaging
  • Biopsy

Symptoms observation

This involves obtaining information on the symptoms of lupus directly from the patient

The doctor asks the patient questions on what signs they have observed or experienced.

The doctor will ask all question that will help him in getting the possibility of lupus-like symptoms

This diagnosis will make the base for subsequent tests.

Physical observation

Physical examination is another method that is used in the diagnosis.

This test will help in eliminating other symptoms of lupus noted in the first diagnosis.

The doctor will;

  • observe your face for any butterfly-shaped rash
  • check your joints for any possibility of swelling
  • tell you to open your mouth and he checks for possibility of sores
  • check your nose for the possibility of sores
  • check your ankles if they are swollen
  • observe your fingers and toes for any strange color change.

If at this stage the doctor finds anything that is associated with lupus, then they will proceed to the next stage in order to get a sure outcome.

Lupus blood and urine test

Blood and urine tests will involve several diagnostic procedures. The tests will include;

  • Complete blood test – this will be used to determine if a person has diabetes which is very common when the person has lupus. White blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets will be counted. If the red blood cells and platelet counts are low and white blood cell count is high, the person has diabetes and these will give a clue of the presence of this disease.
  • Urinalysis – A urine test will be done to check if it contains proteins and red blood cells in greater amounts. If it contains high levels of this two components,then that will show that the person is likely suffering from lupus. The increase on their levels in urine are due to the damage caused by lupus to the kidney.
  • Kidney and liver assessment test – This is a blood test that will be used to determine the performance of the liver and kidney. Any abnormal functioning of these two organs will indicate the possible existence of lupus.
  • Anti-nuclear antibody(ANA) test
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation test

Medical imaging test

This test will be used if the doctor suspects lupus could have affected the lungs or heart.

The methods that can be used for medical imaging are;

  • Chest X-ray – A complete chest X-ray will help in revealing the possibility of inflammation or fluid accumulation on the chest organs which are the heart and lungs.
  • Echocardiogram – This involves using strong sound waves to get images of your heartbeat for checking on the possibility of any abnormality.

Biopsy

Biopsy involves obtaining a small skin tissue and testing it for any possibility of this disease.

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TREATMENT OF LUPUS

Treatment of lupus is determined by the results of the tests carried out and the signs and symptoms. Several medications have been recommended and they include;

  • Immunosuppressants – This involves the use of drugs that suppress the immune system so as to reduce the effects of lupus. Common drugs used in this type of treatment of lupus are; azathioprine and methotrexate. This medication has side effects such as infertility and increased risk of getting cancer
  • Corticosteroids – These drugs are used to reduce inflammations caused by this disease. The drugs used include; methylprednisolone. The side effects of this type of treatment of lupus are; thinning bones, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Use of antimalarial drugs – drugs used in the treatment of malaria can be used to decrease the risk of lupus flares. Though, it is recommended you undergo regular eye tests when taking them.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These drugs can be used in the treatment of lupus symptoms like pain, fever, and swelling. The drugs in this category that are used include; naproxen sodium and ibuprofen

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