Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain. Normally the body’s immune system makes proteins called antibodies, to protect the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials. These foreign materials are called antigens.
If you have lupus, your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. This can damage your joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. There are many kinds of lupus. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus, affects many parts of the body. Discoid lupus causes a rash that doesn’t go away. Subacute cutaneous lupus causes sores after being out in the sun. Another type can be caused by medication. Neonatal lupus, which is rare, affects newborns.
Symptoms of Lupus
For most lupus sufferers, including Jane, lupus is a mild disease affecting only a few organs. For others, it may cause serious and even life-threatening problems.
No two cases of lupus are exactly alike. Signs and symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly, may be mild or severe, and may be temporary or permanent. Most people with lupus experience episodes — called “flares” — of worsening signs and symptoms that eventually improve or even disappear completely for a time.
Lupus can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms can vary from one person to the next. The symptoms can also make lupus look like certain other diseases. For example, like Chantelle, people with lupus may feel weak and fatigued. They may have muscle aches, loss of appetite, swollen glands, and hair loss. Sometimes they have abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Most people with lupus develop skin rashes.These rashes are often an important clue to the diagnosis. In addition to the butterfly rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, other common skin symptoms include skin sores or flaky red spots on the arms, hands, face, neck, or back; mouth or lip sores; and a scaly, red, or purple raised rash on the face, neck, scalp, ears, arms, and chest.
Causes of Lupus
Lupus is not known it is likely that there is no single cause but a combination of genetic, environmental, and possibly hormonal factors that work together to cause the disease. Lupus is not contagious-you can’t catch it from someone. No specific “lupus gene” has been found, but it does run in families.
The causes of lupus are not completely understood, the disease is believed to result from an interplay of genetic, environmental (such as ultraviolet light, stress, infections, certain drugs and chemicals) and hormonal factors.
Although an identical twin is much more likely to have lupus if her identical sibling has lupus, the likelihood of developing the disease in the unaffected twin is not 100%. Despite the nearly identical genetic makeup of identical twins, the probability of the unaffected twin developing the disease if the other twin has it is around 30-50% or less.
Sun exposure (ultraviolet light) is a known environmental agent that can worsen rashes of lupus patients and sometimes trigger a flare of the entire disease.
Doctors don’t know what causes autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. It’s likely that lupus results from a combination of your genetics and your environment. Doctors believe that you may inherit a predisposition to lupus, but not lupus itself. Instead, people with an inherited predisposition for lupus may only develop the disease when they come into contact with something in the environment that can trigger lupus, such as a medication or a virus.