What is Lupus
And How to Treat it?
And How to Treat it?
If you’re reading this then it’s likely that you or a close family member was recently diagnosed with lupus. Unlike high blood pressure or tuberculosis, lupus isn’t a well-known disease.
Your first question to your doctor was probably, “what’s lupus?” Promptly followed by, “should I be worried?”
To help you get up to speed, we’re going to unpack what lupus is, what are the symptoms and causes, who are most at risk to develop lupus, how to treat it, and much more.
If you’d just like to skim the article, use the quick links below to jump ahead.
- What is lupus?
- What are the types of lupus?
- What causes lupus?
- What are the symptoms?
- Who is most likely to get lupus?
- How do you diagnose lupus?
- Treatment and home remedies.
- When should you see a doctor?
If you identify with much of the information presented below, please contact consult your doctor. Medical conditions left unchecked can quickly become very serious. Don’t guess. Get tested. Home to some of the finest medical practitioners in Namibia, we’re here to help you.
What is lupus?
Lupus is a long-term auto-immune disease that causes chronic inflammation and pain in any part of your body. It most commonly affects your skin, heart, blood, kidneys, joints, and lungs.
What are the types of lupus?
As with many diseases, there is more than one type of lupus. There are, in fact, four kinds. Let’s dive in.
1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
SLE is the most common type of lupus affecting approximately 70 percent of all cases. It’s the most severe form of lupus because it can affect any part of your body, usually a major organ such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain, or a combination of these. If you have SLE, you’ll notice periods where your condition flares up, and you experience inflammation and pain in various parts of your body. It’ll then go into remission, giving your system and you some much-needed relief.
2. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLP) or Cutaneous lupus
DLP is a type of lupus that only affects the skin. It accounts for 10 percent of all cases. Discoid lupus erythematosus can cause a red rash on your face, neck, and scalp which can quickly become thick and scaly resulting in scarring. Depending on the severity of the outbreak, it can last for a few days or a couple of years.
Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus is lesions that occur on the skin as a result of the sun. Thankfully, it doesn’t cause scarring.
3. Neonatal lupus
This a rare kind of lupus in that a mother’s antibodies affect her unborn baby. These babies are usually born with a skin rash, or liver problems, or a low blood cell count. Luckily, within six months, these symptoms completely disappear without causing any long-term damage.
4. Drug-induced lupus
The name drug-induced lupus is fitting in that it occurs due to taking high doses of certain prescription medications. These include medicines used to treat an overactive thyroid, seizures, and high blood pressure. They also occur by using oral contraceptive pills, antifungals, and antibiotics. Its symptoms are very similar to systemic lupus but typically disappear once you stop taking the medication.
What causes lupus?
To understand what causes lupus, we need to take a closer look at your body’s immune system.
Your immune system is supposed to protect you from bacteria, viruses, and germs. If you get sick, a normal healthy immune system will produce antibodies that begin to fight off any foreign substances in your body, and you’ll, ultimately, get better.
Essentially, lupus hyper-stimulates your body’s immune system. It malfunctions. Your immune system becomes confused and begins to attack your healthy cells and tissues—this results in inflammation and leads to pain and swelling.
Some of the best minds have tried to deduce why this happens, but there is no definitive answer. We just know which signs and symptoms to look for.
What are the symptoms?
As mentioned earlier, lupus results in flare-ups when the disease is most active. Between flare-ups, your system goes into remission, and you’re given some relief.
You’ll probably experience a range of symptoms if you’ve been diagnosed with lupus, most of which are painful. There are a lucky few who experience no real symptoms, but for those who do, these are the 15 most common.
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pain or swelling in your joints
- Swelling in your limbs and around your eyes
- Swollen glands or lymph nodes
- Nasty skin rashes that can lead to scarring
- Ulcers in your mouth
- Sensitivity to the sun resulting in skin rashes
- Chest pain when breathing deeply
- Sporadic hair loss
- Purple or discolouration of fingers or toes, resulting from the cold or prolonged stress.
Who is most likely to get lupus?
Please understand that lupus is not something you can catch. And you can’t give it to someone. But it can develop in anyone, particularly:
- Women, aged 15 to 44.
- When a family member already has lupus or suffers from an auto-immune disease.
- In people of colour (lupus is two to three times more prevalent in people of colour).
Did you know?
Nine out of 10 people diagnosed with lupus are women, most of which are of child-bearing age.
That being said, children, teenagers, and men do still develop lupus. While infants with neonatal lupus can make a full recovery within six months, they’re more prone to developing other auto-immune diseases later in life.
How do you diagnose lupus?
The short answer is with difficulty. Because of the broad range of symptoms, it’s not easy to diagnose lupus.
Doctors at Welwitschia Hospital will ask about your family and medical history, and what symptoms you experience before performing a physical examination. We’ll take x-rays, blood and urine samples, and if indicated, one or two tissue biopsies (usually from your skin or kidney).
We’ll also compare your symptoms against a list of common criteria. Should you meet four out of the 11 criteria, you’ll likely be diagnosed as having lupus.
These are the 11 criteria that we look for:
- A butterfly-shaped rash is known as a malar rash which can be seen on your cheeks and nose.
- A raised and red disk-shaped rash is known as a discoid rash. It tends to appear in patches on your skin.
- Sensitivity to the sun or light resulting in a rash on your skin, also known as photosensitivity.
- The presence of oral ulcers in your mouth, these are usually painless sores.
- Swelling and tenderness in two or more joints as a result of non-erosive arthritis. It does cause discomfort. However, it won’t destroy your bones.
- Pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around your heart or pleurisy, which is inflammation of the membranes surrounding your lungs).
- A kidney disorder. A simple urine test can reveal whether you have high levels of protein or cellular casts.
- Neurologic disorders, such as seizures or psychosis.
- Blood disorders such as hemolytic anaemia (your red blood cells are destroyed quicker than new blood cells can be made). Leukopenia (usually, you’ll have a low white blood cell count). Lymphopenia (again a low white blood cell count, but a specific kind). And thrombocytopenia (a low platelet count).
- Immunologic disorders, such as anti-DNA, anti-Sm, or positive antiphospholipid antibodies.
- Testing positive for raised antinuclear antibodies (ANA).
Treatment and home remedies.
While there is no known cure for lupus, doctors at Welwitschia Hospital can help you manage your condition, especially during flare-ups. As a result, you’ll experience less pain and be more comfortable, allowing you to lead an active, healthy life.
Because each case is different, your treatment plan will be tailored to address your specific symptoms. You will be medicated, but these alternative and natural remedies can also provide relief from pain.
- Meditate. Relaxation methods such as meditation and deep breathing are essential if you have lupus. They help to calm your mind and body, which can lead to fewer flare-ups.
- Use hot and cold packs. For achy joints, applying heat and cold packs can significantly reduce swelling and provide some much-needed relief from pain.
- Exercise regularly. We know that healthy bodies are more able to stave off illness than unhealthy bodies, so take care of yours.
- Try not to stress. It’s vital that you avoid stress as much as possible. When you’re stressed, your immune system becomes hyperactive, which leads to flare-ups. So, figure out what causes you stress and avoid it.
- Stay out of the sun as much as possible. If your skin reacts to sunlight, cover up. Wear a hat. Wear a thin long-sleeved shirt and loose-fitting cotton pants in warm weather when venturing outdoors.
Take care of yourself.
When should you see a doctor?
If you exhibit four or more symptoms found in the criteria for diagnosing lupus, contact your doctor to book an appointment today. You don’t have to live with pain every day of your life. We can help you manage your condition, but the longer you wait to seek medical help, the more severe your symptoms will become.