Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks and the bridge of the nose. This may occur in many but not all cases of lupus.
Other symptoms include:
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Rashes elsewhere on the body
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
The severity of Lupus varies from mild to severe, temporary or permanent, can come on suddenly or develop slowly. The majority of people develop episodes of ‘flare ups’ which then will settle down.
It’s believed that lupus results from a combination of your genetics and your environment. It appears that people with an inherited predisposition for lupus may develop the disease when they come into contact with something in the environment that can trigger lupus. The cause of lupus in most cases, however, is unknown. Some potential triggers might be:
- Sunlight may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response in susceptible people.
- Infections. Having an infection can initiate lupus or cause a relapse in some people.
- Medications. Lupus can be triggered by certain types of blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications and antibiotics. However, those with drug-induced lupus usually get better when they stop taking the medication.
Who gets Lupus?
Factors that may increase your risk of lupus include:
- Your sex. Lupus is more common in women.
- Age. Although lupus affects people of all ages, it’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45.
- Race. Lupus is more common in African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.
Diagnosis of Lupus is also complex
No one test can diagnose lupus. The combination of blood and urine tests, signs and symptoms, and physical examination findings leads to the diagnosis.
Depends on the signs and symptoms. Common medications used are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), may be used to treat pain, swelling and fever associated with lupus. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription.
- Antimalarial drugs. Medications commonly used to treat malaria, such as hydroxychloroquine affect the immune system and can help decrease the risk of lupus flares.
- Corticosteroids. Prednisone and other types of corticosteroids can counter the inflammation of lupus. High doses of steroids such as methylprednisolone (Medrol) are often used to control serious diseases.
- Immunosuppressants. Drugs that suppress the immune system may be helpful in serious cases of lupus.
- Biologics. A different type of medication, belimumab (Benlysta) administered intravenously, also reduces lupus symptoms in some people.
Lifestyle and home treatments
However there are also simple measures that can help you prevent lupus flares ups, should they occur and better cope with the signs and symptoms you experience.
- Be sun smart. Ultraviolet light can trigger a flare, wear protective clothing — such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants — and use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 50 every time you go outside.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise can help keep your bones strong, reduce your risk of heart attack and promote general well-being.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and can worsen the effects of lupus on your heart and blood vessels.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Complementary medicine as adjunctive options
Sometimes people with lupus seek alternative or complementary medicine. There aren’t any alternative therapies that have been shown to alter the course of lupus, although some may help ease symptoms of the disease.
- Fish oil. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids that may be beneficial for people with lupus. Early studies have found some promise, though more study is needed.
- Acupuncture. It may help ease the muscle pain associated with lupus.
For more detailed information about this disease see http://www.lupusuk.org.uk