Lupus

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.

Anyone can get lupus, but women are most at risk. Lupus is also more common in African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women. The cause of lupus is not known.

Lupus has many symptoms.

Some common symptoms are

  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Fatigue
  • Red rashes, often on the face (also called the "butterfly rash")

There is no one test to diagnose lupus, and it may take months or years to make the diagnosis. There is no cure for lupus, but medicines and lifestyle changes can help control it.

 

Anyone can get lupus, but it most often affects women. Lupus is also more common in women of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.

The cause of lupus is not known. Research suggests that genes play an important role, but genes alone do not determine who gets lupus. It is likely that many factors trigger the disease.

Symptoms of lupus vary, but some of the most common symptoms of lupus are:

  • Pain or swelling in joints
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Red rashes, most often on the face
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Hair loss
  • Pale or purple fingers or toes
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Swelling in legs or around eyes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling very tired

Less common symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Headaches
  • Dizzy spells
  • Feeling sad
  • Confusion
  • Seizures.

Symptoms may come and go. The times when a person is having symptoms are called flares, which can range from mild to severe. New symptoms may appear at any time.

 

There is no single test to diagnose lupus. It may take months or years for a doctor to diagnose lupus.

Your doctor may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • Medical history
  • Complete exam
  • Blood tests
  • Skin biopsy
  • Kidney biopsy 

 

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan to fit your needs. You and your doctor should review the plan often to be sure it is working. You should report new symptoms to your doctor right away so that treatment can be changed if needed.

The goals of the treatment plan are to:

  • Prevent flares
  • Treat flares when they occur
  • Reduce organ damage and other problems.

Treatments may include drugs to:

  • Reduce swelling and pain
  • Prevent or reduce flares
  • Help the immune system
  • Reduce or prevent damage to joints
  • Balance the hormones.

In addition to medications for lupus itself, sometimes other medications are needed for problems related to lupus such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or infection.  

 

It is vital that you take an active role in your treatment. One key to living with lupus is to know about the disease and its impact. Being able to spot the warning signs of a flare can help you prevent the flare or make the symptoms less severe.

Many people with lupus have certain symptoms just before a flare, such as:

  • Feeling more tired
  • Pain
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Dizziness.

It is also important to find ways to cope with the stress of having lupus. Exercising and finding ways to relax may make it easier to cope.