HEALTH CONDITIONS

A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Lupus

By Shannon Pierce

Lupus

Lupus cases vary greatly, but they are defined by chronic inflammation that occurs when your own immune system attacks your own organs and tissues. The inflammation due to the disease affects many parts of the body, such as skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, brain, lungs, and the heart.

Symptoms

Symptoms of lupus can vary greatly. They can come on slow and over time, or suddenly. They can range from mild to severe, and they may be temporary or permanent.  Some people with mild symptoms of lupus may experience “flare-ups,” where their symptoms worsen for a period of time, then improve or go away.

People often report:

Fatigue

Rashes on the face resembling a butterfly shape

Fever

Joint pain, joint stiffness, swelling

Dry eyes

Shortness of breath

Chest pain

Skin lesions that are sensitive to the sun

Extremities turning white or blue when cold or during stressful times.

Headaches

Confusion

Memory loss

Causes

Lupus results from a combination of both genetics and environment, but the exact cause for most people is unknown. It can be triggered by:

Sunlight Certain medications, such as anti-seizure drugs, antibiotics, or blood pressure medications.

Getting an infection can trigger lupus or cause a relapse in symptoms.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing lupus can be difficult because symptoms are similar a wide variety of ailments and diseases. One sign that differs from other diseases is the butterfly shaped rash on the bridge of the nose and cheeks.  In the laboratory, blood and urine tests may help doctors study blood count to determine if you have anemia, or a low white blood cell or platelet count, which are both commonly linked with lupus. Blood tests can show if your organ function has been affected by lupus. Urinalysis, antinuclear antibody tests, chest x-rays, echocardiograms, and biopsies, are all common tests performed by your doctor for lupus. 

Treatment

With lupus, you treat the disease based on your symptoms. Patients must weigh the benefits and risks of medications, potentially changing medications and dosages as symptoms come, go and change. Common medications include NSAIDS, such as Aleve and ibuprofen, antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids, and immunosuppresants, or drugs that suppress the immune system. Patients can help treat or improve their own symptoms by avoiding the sun, getting plenty of rest, seeing their doctor regularly, eating a healthy diet full of whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables, and avoiding smoking.


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