Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune cells to attack its own tissues and organs causing an inflammation. Also know as systemic lupus erythematosus, this inflammatory disease can affect many different body parts (such as joints) leading to severe pain. As the signs and symptoms of lupus are same that observed in various other ailments, it is difficult to get diagnosed for the condition. However, one of the most distinguishable features of lupus is a facial rash that appears as unfolding of the wings of the butterfly on the cheek.
This disease is hereditary meaning that some people have the condition since birth but suffer from the disease only if triggered by external factors such as exposure to sunlight, certain drugs and infection. Although there is no cure for the disease, with the help of early diagnosis and effective treatment options that are available, you can control its symptoms and lead a healthy life. Our expert Dr Atul Gattani, Consultant Rheumatologist at Wockhardt Hospital, Vashi shed light on some of the key facts related to systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system of your body starts attacking itself or becomes allergic to itself. It over reacts to foreign stimulus and generates a large amount of antibodies which attack different tissues in the body. Sometimes, the autoimmune reaction is limited to the skin tissue (in discoid lupus erythematosus-DLE); in other cases the reaction is seen throughout the body (systemic lupus erythematosus-SLE). Here are more articles on autoimmune diseases.
The actual cause is not known because there is no defined trigger that has been identified. 'There are multiple genes implicated that increase the chances of developing lupus. Sometimes people whose family members have other autoimmune disease may develop lupus', says Dr Gattani.
Read about top 6 diseases that can trigger joint pain.
Anybody can suffer from lupus but it more common in women than in men. 'Women of child bearing age are mainly affected by lupus, though it can be seen in children and elderly. It mainly affects people in their 20s and 30,' says Dr Gattani. You may also like to read about 4 Ayurvedic oils that can help relieve joint pain.
Characteristic symptoms of lupus are development of a ‘butterfly rash’ on the cheeks and sensitivity to sunlight. However, patients with lupus normally complain of -
Here are 7 causes of skin rashes you might not know about.
According to Dr Gattani, 'Diagnosis of lupus is not difficult as such but as lupus is less common than other autoimmune diseases, people and several health care providers are not aware about it and then it's too late when the patient is referred to a rheumatologist, doctors who looks after these patients.'
Moreover, the symptoms of lupus are extremely variable. A person suffering from lupus goes to the doctor for symptoms shown by the disease with respect to the tissue it affects. Plus, there are intermittent flare-ups which imitate a lot of other diseases. Read more about how low levels of vitamin D can cause flare-ups in lupus.
Further blood tests and ANA (antinuclear antibody) testing is done to confirm the disease. ANA are nothing but proteins that attach to DNA. A person having lupus will have antibodies against ANA in their system.
There is no cure for the disease as of now. But there are a lot of treatment options which can control the symptoms of lupus. For joint and muscle pain, killers like ibuprofen are given. Hydroxychloroquine in combination with quinacrine is especially effective in patients who experience fatigue, skin rashes and joint diseases. Immunosupressants like methotrexate and cyclosporine are also prescribed to lower the over activity of immune system. Did you know that plant compound CDDO may suppress lupus disease?
Dr Gattani explains,'Nothing can be done to prevent lupus. but taking proper care and early diagnosis can prevent life threatening complications.' He also mentions that there are several advancements in treatment of lupus and many more research advances that can help patients in near future.
Patients need to alter their diet: Lupus affects the skin and patients suffering from lupus are more prone to suffer from allergies. There are many foods that tend to increase flare-ups in lupus. You should discuss dietary changes with your doctor to minimize allergic reactions. Read more about foods you can eat when you're suffering from lupus.
The content is been verified by Dr Atul Gattani, Consultant Rheumatologist at Wockhardt Hospital, Vashi.