Lupus is a chronic (long-term) disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system — the body system that usually fights infections — attacks healthy tissue instead.
Lupus most commonly affects your:
- Internal organs, like your kidneys and heart
Lupus can have a variety of symptoms depending on the individual. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain or swelling in the joints
- Muscle pain
- Red rashes on the skin, mostly on the face and in the form of a butterfly
- Chest pain when breathing deeply
- Hair loss
- White or purple fingers or toes
- Sunlight sensitivity
- Swelling in the legs or eye area
- Sores in the mouth
- Swollen glands
- Feeling of tiredness.
These symptoms can be intermittent and are referred to as “outbreaks”. These outbreaks may be mild or severe and new symptoms may appear at any time.
What Causes Lupus
The cause of lupus and its risk factors are currently unknown. Anyone can get lupus, but women are at a higher risk for the disease. Lupus is two to three times more common in African-American women than in white women. Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are also more likely to develop lupus. African-American and Hispanic women are more susceptible to the most severe types of lupus.
What are the 4 Types of Lupus?
There are different types of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus: This is the most common type and it may be mild or acute and can damage many parts of the body.
- Discoid lupus: This type of lupus causes a rash on the skin that won’t go away.
- Subacute cutaneous lupus: Causes blisters after exposure to the sun.
- Drug-induced lupus: This is caused by some medications. The disease usually disappears when you stop taking the medication in question.
- Neonatal lupus: This affects newborns, but it is not common. It may be caused by certain antibodies in the mother’s body.
Can Lupus be prevented?
Lupus can occur without any symptoms, so it is difficult to know if it can be completely prevented during a person’s lifetime. The best thing you can do to reduce the chances of developing lupus is to follow a balanced diet and to exercise regularly, i.e. have a healthy lifestyle.
1. Taking care of your diet: By eating the right foods and eating a healthy diet you can prevent inflammation of the organs, which is one of the main symptoms of lupus.
2. Exercise: Staying active and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle can help you build strength, control your weight and even improve your mood. Check with your specialist about the type of exercise you can do, because the organs affected by lupus could complicate the practice of some exercises.
3. Take supplements: These can add nutritional value to your diet and can also help reduce inflammation throughout your body. Krill oil, for example, contains nutrients that can improve your cardiovascular health if taken regularly.
Medical tests for Lupus
As with the symptoms, there is no single test to diagnose lupus, because it can sometimes be confused with other diseases. It can take months or years for a specialist to diagnose lupus. Some of the medical tests that the specialist may use to diagnose lupus include:
A detailed evaluation of someone’s medical history
- Full physical examination
- Blood tests
- Skin biopsy
- Kidney biopsy
Which specialist treats Lupus?
People with lupus will see several different doctors. Including, a primary care doctor, dermatologists, cardiologists, pain specialists, to name a few.
Living With Lupus Disease: Things You Can Do Yourself
Although medicines are important in controlling lupus, you can help manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of it getting worse.
- use high-factor (50+) sunscreen – you can get it on prescription if you have lupus
- learn to pace yourself to avoid getting too tired
- try to stay active even on a bad day
- try relaxation techniques to manage stress – stress can make symptoms worse
- wear a hat in the sun
- tell your employer about your condition – you might be able to adjust your working pattern
- ask for help from family, friends and health professionals
- eat a healthy, balanced diet, including vitamin D and calcium
- do not smoke – stopping smoking is the most important thing to do if you have lupus
- do not sit in direct sunlight or spend a lot of time in rooms with fluorescent lights
Lupus UK has support, advice and information for people with the condition.