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What is Lupus?
Lupus is a complex and chronic (long-term) autoimmune disease where your immune system, which usually helps protect your body from infection and illness, starts attacking your body’s tissues and organs, leading to inflammation and damage. Symptoms may include fatigue, joint pain, butterfly-shaped rash on your face, and fevers.
Lupus can affect different parts of your body, including skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, and joints. Though currently there is no cure for lupus, symptoms can often be managed with proper care and medications.
Who Gets Lupus?
Lupus is more common in women, particularly between the ages of 15 and 45. While it can affect people of all ethnic groups, it may be more prevalent in African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American populations.
Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose due its symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time. Common symptoms include:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Skin rashes, particularly a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Swollen glands, usually in your neck, armpits, or groin
- Hair loss
- Mouth ulcers
- Swelling in the legs or around the eyes.
If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to see your healthcare provider, as early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition more effectively.
Causes and Risk Factors
The accurate cause of lupus is not known. However, several factors may contribute:
- Genetic Factors: Family history may play a role.
- Environmental Triggers: Sun exposure, infections, and certain drugs might trigger lupus in susceptible individuals.
- Hormonal Factors: Some believe that hormones, particularly estrogen, may be involved since lupus is more common in women.
How Is Lupus Diagnosed?
Diagnosing lupus can be challenging, as its symptoms are often similar to other ailments. A combination of physical examination, medical history, laboratory tests, and sometimes even biopsies may be used.
While there is no cure for lupus, treatment can help control symptoms. You might be prescribed:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain
- Antimalarial drugs for skin and joint issues
- Immunosuppressive medications to control the immune system
Lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding sunlight can also help manage symptoms.
Prevention and Managing Lupus
Though lupus can’t be prevented, you can take steps to manage the disease and reduce flare-ups:
- Regularly visit your healthcare provider for monitoring and management
- Take prescribed medications as directed
- Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing to reduce sun exposure
- Avoid known triggers, such as certain foods or stress.