Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is a disease in which the body treats some of its tissues as if they belonged to somebody else. This is, it makes antibodies, which damage its own tissue.
Symptoms of Lupus include a sun sensitive skin rash, hair loss, mouth and nasal ulceration, cold sensitivity of the hands and feet, dryness of the eyes and mouth, joint inflammation, inflammation of the covering of the heart or lungs, neurological involvement (seizure, nerve damage), fatigue, fever, lowering of the blood counts (red cells, white cells or platelets), inflammation of the kidneys (causing decreased kidney function, protein or blood in the urine).
Many people with Lupus will have only skin involvement and no internal organ disease.
The cause of Lupus is still unknown. We do know that we may inherit a susceptibility to this disease.
Careful blood and urine monitoring will help in recognizing activation of the disease. There are a series of tests that are helpful, the most important of which is the anti-DNA (the body makes an antibody directed against the cell’s DNA).
A screening test for Lupus is the ANA (Antinuclear Antibody). Most people who have a positive ANA do not prove to have Lupus after a thorough evaluation. There are a series of diseases in which the ANA is positive including Lupus, Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Antiphospholipid Syndrome, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome and having a family member with an ANA associated disease (We may simply inherit the blood test (ANA) positively but no disease.
Treatments for Lupus and resultant outcomes have tremendously improved over the years, so there is every reason for optimism for a Lupus patient or their family members.
Some of the treatments for Lupus include Prednisone, Plaquenil, anti-inflammatory medication, Methotrexate and Cytoxan, Cellcept Rituxan and Benlysta. There are a series of medication in research for Lupus.
It is important to get adequate rest, avoid sun exposure (for sun sensitive individuals), avoid Lupus inducing medications (Pronestyl, Hydralzine, INH, Quinidine), and to treat infection rapidly and effectively.