There are many misconceptions regarding lupus, a non-contagious, immunologic disease that can range from mild to life-threatening. Though this rare disease has no cure, early and correct diagnosis can allow you to lead a good, full life when you have expert care and follow the proper treatment. If you suspect lupus, you’ll want to put your health in the hands of world-renowned dermatologists, such as the ones at West Dermatology.
Read on to find out more about this rare condition and possible treatment options. For more information about how the dermatologists at West Dermatology in Arizona, Nevada, or California can help you, fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation.
What is Lupus?
Your immune system is designed to protect you from viruses and harmful bacteria through antibodies, proteins that your white blood cells produce. It develops when your immune system stops working correctly and cannot tell the difference between healthy tissue and germs, with the antibodies being produced now attacking both your healthy and infected cells. Now known as autoantibodies, they cause anything from pain to inflammation to actual damage to your organs and/or tissues.
If you suffer from lupus, the autoantibodies course through your blood, attacking cells in your body that have become weak for some reason. This can mean that some organs suffer more than others during a flare-up.
Lupus is chronic, as it can last anywhere from weeks to years, and it can damage your body’s organs, joints, or skin – and often all three at once.
The Causes of Lupus
This is unknown, although a number of experts believe that this condition develops due to a variety of factors, including hormones, genetics, and the environment.
- Hormones – 90% of those who suffer from lupus are women, and it is believed that this is due to hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menstrual cycles.
- Genetics – Currently, it is believed that no particular gene or group of genes causes the disease. However, there does seem to be a higher risk for siblings of those who have lupus than for those who do not have siblings. Also, the risk is higher for siblings of those who have another autoimmune disease, such as thyroiditis. Finally, several ethnic groups have higher incidences of lupus. If you’re of Native American, African, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, Asian, or Hispanic descent, you at greater risk.
- Biomarkers – In simple terms, these are indicators in various cells or tissues signifying that your body is reacting to or will soon react to some other specific bodily process. An example would be the c4d protein, which if found in your blood could indicate that you have lupus or a kidney ailment.
- Environment – These include chemicals or viruses such as ultraviolet rays, dust, antibiotics, stress, fatigue, injury, smoking, and more.
Types of Lupus
The most common type – and, thus, the one people normally mean when they refer to lupus – is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This can affect any of your body organs, or it could just affect your skin and joints. More severe cases involve joints, kidneys, blood, lungs, and/or heart. SLE is also usually characterized by flare-ups followed by dormancy in a periodic cycle.
If you have discoid lupus, the disease is limited to your skin, marked by face, neck, and scalp rash. It does not affect your organs and rarely does it develop into SLE, but there’s no known way to predict when or even if it will.
Drug-induced lupus is caused by an adverse reaction to certain prescription drugs. Its symptoms are nearly identical to those of SLE. Hundreds of medications are thought to contribute to this particular type, though it is known to recede once you stop the medication that triggered your flare-up.
There’s also neonatal lupus, which is when a child is born with autoantibodies passed on from the mother. This causes the infant to have skin rashes and heart or blood complications for the first few months of life before those issues fade.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus signs and symptoms are unpredictable. They can be mild or severe, a few or a lot, short-term or long lasting. The flares can come and go with no warning. And, as if all that weren’t enough, SLE symptoms tend to be similar to other diseases, making the correct diagnosis difficult.
The following are the most common signs to know:
- Debilitating Fatigue
- Recurring Fevers
- Hair Loss
- Skin Rash, especially the “butterfly rash,” a rash bridging your nose and spreading under your eyes and across both cheeks
- Skin Lesions
- Breathing Issues
- Nephritis, a kidney inflammation that reduces your ability to eliminate toxins and waste from your blood and, untreated, could lead to kidney failure
- Swollen Joints
- Heartburn, Acid Indigestion, and Other Gastrointestinal Issues
- Thyroid Issues
- Dry Mouth or Eyes
Depending on a variety of factors – your age, gender, overall health, lifestyle, and symptoms – your skin care specialist at West Dermatology will develop the best treatment plan possible. As there is no cure, the goal of lupus treatment will be to manage your condition by preventing flares, treating them when they do occur, reducing pain and swelling, balancing hormones, helping your immune system, and reducing damage to your organs, joints, and other affected body parts.
To help you manage your case, your physician could prescribe a variety of medications, including corticosteroids, antimalarials, anti-inflammatories, and immunosuppressants.
To learn more about lupus treatment, visit WebMD.com.
Find Answers to Your Lupus Questions
There’s much about lupus that mimics other health or skin conditions, which makes diagnosing it difficult. If you feel that you have several of the above symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have lupus, but it’s important that you don’t ignore these symptoms. Lupus is currently neither predictable nor curable, but treatment options to manage your condition are available. Contact West Dermatology in California (Hillcrest, San Diego, Fresno, and other cities), Arizona (Phoenix, Mesa, Yuma, and more), or Nevada (Las Vegas) to start your path towards health.
Next, read about Melasma.