Lupus - Health Center
By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST
Lupus – Basic Overview
Lupus is known to be a chronic inflammatory disease which tends to occur when the immune system of the affected person starts attacking its own tissues and organs. This kind of inflammation affects different organs of the body such as the kidneys, the joints, the muscles, the red blood cells, the brain as well as the lungs.
Lupus, as a disease can often be very hard to diagnose as its signs and symptoms coincide with that of other ailments. One of the most distinctive features of Lupus can be the facial rashes across both the cheeks of the affected person. However, this symptom does not occur in all the cases.
Research studies have indicated that in some people the chances of developing Lupus can be more as compared to others, thereby highlighting the genetic probability. On the other hand, in other cases, the disease could also be caused by infections, drugs or even overexposure towards sunlight. Treatment and timely diagnosis can help to control the major signs and symptoms, but there is no known cure for the ailment.
Causes of Lupus:
Lupus, as a disease tends to occur when the immune system of the body starts attacking the healthy tissue throughout the body. Therefore, it has been found out that Lupus is a combination of both genetic factors as well as environmental factors. People who suffer from a genetic vulnerability of contracting this disease tend to do so immediately when they come in contact with the environmental factors which trigger the progression of this disease. However, the definite cause for the occurrence of this disease is yet unknown. Some of the major triggering factors are as follows:
Overexposure towards sunlight: Overexposure to the UV rays of the sun can cause lesions over the surface of the skin and can therefore generate an internal response leading to the triggering of the disease.
Medications: Certain medications which are prescribed to people suffering from high blood pressure or seizures could be one of the trigger factors for Lupus. People suffering from drug induced lupus often see the symptoms receding when they stop taking in the medications.
Hormones such as estrogens are known to regulate the progression of lupus when the symptoms flare up during the menstrual cycle or during the onset and progression of pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus:
The signs and symptoms of Lupus differ from one person to the other. The symptoms tend to develop gradually over the passage of time. These signs may vary from mild to extreme depending upon the general health of the person. Most people go through episodes of these symptoms. These episodes are also known as flares and these tend to vary over time and get worsen over the passage of time.
Most of the common signs and symptoms of the disease are as follows:
- Increased fatigue and fever
- Pain in the joints followed by stiffening and swelling
- Rashes all over the cheeks and bridges of the nose
- Lesions across the skin which worsen with exposure to the sun
- Shortness of the breath
- Pain in the chest
- Dryness in the eyes
- Confusion and loss of memory
If you have been observing rashes all over your skin accompanied by the above mentioned signs, then it is recommended to see the doctors regarding this.
Tests and Diagnosis of Lupus:
Often the diagnosis of the disease is very difficult as the signs and symptoms tend to vary from one person to the other. These signs and symptoms can resemble the symptoms of other diseases as well. There is no definite test which can diagnose lupus definitely. There are many tests under way for the diagnosis of the disease. Some of these are as follows:
Blood Count Test: This test goes out to measure the count of the RBC’s, WBC’s and platelets in the blood of the affected person. These tests can point out if the person is suffering from anaemia, which is common in case of people suffering from lupus. A low count of the WBC’s and the platelets can also indicate if a person is suffering from lupus.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate: This test checks the person’s WBC’s which settle at the bottom of the test tube after an hour’s duration. If the settlement of the cells is done at a faster rate as compared to the normal rate, then it can indicate lupus.
Urinalysis: In this, a sample of urine is collected and is tested for the levels of proteins and RBC’s which are present inside it. If RBC’s and proteins are found, it can indicate lupus.
ANA Test: Antinuclear Antibody Tests are done to check the presence of the antibodies in the blood. People suffering from lupus have a positive ANA result. These antibodies are activated when the immune system of the body fights against infections.
Imaging Tests such as Chest X ray and Echocardiogram are also conducted on the patients to determine lupus. An X ray of the chest can reveal any fluid or inflammation within the lungs. On the other hand, an Echocardiogram can produce images of the heart and checks the heart for any problems with the valves or other parts of the heart.
In some of the severe cases, a biopsy needs to be done. A biopsy of the kidneys can be done in order to check the damage which has been caused to the vital organ. A small sample of the organ is removed and then the best treatment option is sought for the disease. A biopsy is done with the help of a needle or through a small incision in the lower part of the abdomen.
Treatment and Drugs for Lupus:
The treatment options are greatly dependent on the signs and symptoms of the disease. Depending on these symptoms, the doctors can look for the right treatment option and can prescribe it to the patient. The following are the major treatment options:
NSAID’s (Non steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs): These include drugs such as Naproxen and Ibuprofen. These drugs are used in order to treat the pain, swelling as well as the fever which accompanies the condition. Some of the major side effects of the treatment can include pain in the stomach, problems with the kidneys as well as heart problems.
Anti malarial Drugs: These include drugs such as Hydrocholoroquine which can be used to control lupus. Side effects of this drug may include stomach pains and damage to the retina of the eyes.
Corticosteroids: These include medications such as Prednisone which can counter the inflammation that has been caused due to lupus. These can cause side effects such as gain the weight, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and an increased susceptibility towards infections.
Immune suppressants: These drugs are used to suppress the immune system of the patient. Some of the major drugs are Cytoxan, Imuran, Cellcept and Arava. Some of the major side effects of these drugs could include damage to the liver, an increased risk of infections and an increased risk of contracting cancer. One of the latest medications, known by the name of Benlysta has helped to reduce the signs and symptoms of Lupus to a great extent. However, some of the major side effects of the drug include nausea, diarrhoea and fever.