Shedding Light on Lupus

Lupus is a disease that attacks thousands of Americans yearly. Most of its victims are women of childbearing age.

“Lupus occurs more frequently in women than it does in men, though it isn’t clear why. Four types of lupus exist – systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), discoid lupus erythematosus, drug-induced lupus erythematosus and neonatal lupus. Of these, SLE is the most common and serious form of lupus,” said the Mayo Clinic.

The cause of SLE is unknown. Some say lupus is triggered by medication or a virus that lies dormant in the body until it is activated by sunlight, physical or mental stress, streptococcal or viral infections, pregnancy or certain chemicals.

“Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that instead of just attacking foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses, your immune system also turns against healthy tissue. This leads to inflammation and damage to various parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain,” explained the Mayo Clinic.

The symptoms of SLE vary and include the following: non-deforming arthritis (pain and stiffness in the joints, especially the hands and feet), facial erythema (a butterfly-shaped rash that spreads across the nose and cheeks), sensitivity to light, oral or nasopharyngeal ulcerations, Raynaud’s phenomenon (fingers or toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods), shortness of breath, chest pain, anxiety, depression and memory loss.

“Drug-induced lupus results from the long-term use of certain prescription drugs. Although many medications can potentially trigger lupus, examples of drugs most clearly linked with the disease include the antipsychotic chlorpromazine, high blood pressure medications such as hydralazine, the tuberculosis drug isoniazid and the heart medication procainamide, among others. It usually takes several months or years of therapy with these drugs before symptoms appear, and even then, only a small percentage of people will ever develop lupus,” revealed the Mayo Clinic.

Untreated, the inflammation caused by lupus can affect many parts of the body, damaging the blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, heart and bones.

About 50 percent of patients develop cardiopulmonary abnormalities like pericarditis and dyspnea (shortness of breath). Other complications are myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), endocarditis (inflammation of the valves or lining membrane of the heart) and pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs). Lupus can also affect the central nervous system and lead to emotional instability, psychoses, irritability and depression.

There is no way to prevent lupus but many drugs can relieve its symptoms. Treatment depends on the signs and symptoms. See a good doctor who will explain the advantages and risks of these drugs.

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