More than 1.5 million individuals in the United States have been diagnosed with Lupus, with a reported 16,000 cases being diagnosed each year. Women of childbearing age (15-44) are more likely to develop Lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause damage to any body part (internal organs, joints, skin, etc). It is considered a chronic illness due to the fact that symptoms can last anywhere from 6 weeks to several years.
When an individual has Lupus, the immune system malfunctions. With autoimmune disease such as Lupus, the immune system can't differentiate between foreign germ invaders, and healthy tissue. The immune system creates autoantibodies that power through the body, destroying healthy tissue. This can cause inflammation, increase pain, and cause damage in any area of the body.
When you hear about Lupus, you also hear about "Lupus flares." Lupus flares occur when your body is experiencing increased number of symptoms, and you feel more ill. When an individual is experiencing a period of time when symptoms have decreased, it is called "Lupus remission."
Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus is often misdiagnosed, as the symptoms are similar to symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Thyroid problems, Lyme disease, Diabetes, and others.
Testing and treatment
Your doctor will make note of your symptoms and order a round of tests (blood tests, etc). He or she will also ask you about your family's medical history.
It is important to note that many tests are conducted in order to make a correct diagnosis of Lupus. You may be referred to a Rheumatologist who can assist you further in getting a proper diagnosis.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your Rheumy will begin a treatment regimen for you. It may take some time for your doctors to find a combination of medications that keeps your Lupus symptoms under control.
There are many drugs that can assist in controlling the symptoms. Some of these include:
Those with Lupus may be susceptible to contracting other conditions. For this, your doctor may put you on diuretics, high blood pressure medications, anticonvulsants, antibiotics, and bone-strengtheners to protect against osteoporosis.
In severe cases, medications similar to chemotherapy may be used to keep symptoms at bay.