What exactly is Lupus and how does it affect you?

Lupus itself is a complex mystery that  has five different strands. The most common type of lupus is, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and it affects many parts of the body. Other types of lupus are:

•Discoid lupus erythematosus—causes a skin rash that doesn't go away
•Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus—causes skin sores on parts of the body exposed to sun
•Drug-induced lupus—can be caused by medications
•Neonatal lupus—a rare type of lupus that affects newborns.

The immune system is designed to attack foreign substances in the body. If you have lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system and it attacks healthy cells and tissues. This causes damage to many parts of the body including:
•Blood vessels

How Is Lupus Diagnosed?

While there is not a single test to official diagnose lupus, there are things your doctor may take into consideration.  Unfortunately it may take months or years for a doctor to diagnose lupus. Nevertheless the key is for you not to get discouraged, because your doctor may use many tools to make a diagnosis that includes:

Medical history
Complete exam
Blood tests
Skin biopsy (looking at skin samples under a microscope
Kidney biopsy (looking at tissue from your kidney under a microscope).

How Is Lupus Treated?

If you have lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE), you may be extremely tired, have skin rashes, or have joint pain. If the disease is more serious, you may have problems with your kidneys, heart, lungs, blood, or nervous system. Lupus symptoms depend on what body organs are affected and how seriously they are affected.  You may need special kinds of doctors to treat the many symptoms you experience with lupus. Building a competent health care team is the best idea to help you with your healthcare. Please note that any of these doctors can help assist you with your healthcare needs:

A family doctor
Rheumatologists—doctors who treat arthritis and other diseases that cause swelling in the joints
Clinical immunologists—doctors who treat immune system disorders
Nephrologists—doctors who treat kidney disease
Hematologists—doctors who treat blood disorders
Dermatologists—doctors who treat skin diseases
Neurologists—doctors who treat problems with the nervous system
Cardiologists—doctors who treat heart and blood vessel problems
Endocrinologists—doctors who treat problems related to the glands and hormones
Nurse Practioners
Social workers.

Chronic Fatigue: Nearly all patients with lupus have mild to extreme fatigue. Even mild cases of lupus cause an inability to engage in daily activities and exercise. Increased fatigue is a typical sign that a symptom flare is about to occur.

Joint and muscle pain: Most people with lupus have joint pain (arthritis) at some time. About 70% of people with lupus report that joint and muscle pain was their first sign of the disease. Joints may be red and warm, and may swell. Morning stiffness may also be felt. Lupus arthritis often occurs on both sides of the body at the same time, particularly in the wrists, small joints of the hands, elbows, knees, and ankles.

Skin problems: Most people with lupus develop skin rashes. These rashes are often an important clue to the diagnosis. In addition to the butterfly rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, other common skin symptoms include skin sores or flaky red spots on the arms, hands, face, neck, or back; mouth or lip sores; and a scaly, red or purple raised rash on the face, neck, scalp, ears, arms, and chest. There have also been reports of patients experiencing a constant out break of hives. 

Sensitivity to light: Exposure to ultraviolet light (such as sunlight or tanning parlors) typically worsens the skin rash and can trigger lupus flares. Sensitivity to light affects many of those with lupus, with fair-skinned people with lupus tending to be more sensitive.

Nervous system symptoms: Some people with lupus develop nervous system problems, most commonly headaches. It is not clear whether these are from the lupus itself or whether they are related to the general stress and fatigue of having a chronic illness. More severe symptoms-such as difficulty with memory or concentration, or numbness or weakness of the arms or legs-are not common.

Heart problems: People with lupus may develop inflammation of the heart sac (pericarditis), which may cause severe, sudden pain in the center of the left side of the chest that may spread to the neck, back, shoulders, or arms.

Lung problems: People with lupus may develop inflammation of the sac around the lungs (pleurisy), which can cause a stabbing chest pain and coughing.

Mental health problems: People with lupus may develop problems such as anxiety and depression. Such problems can be caused by lupus, the medicines used to treat it, or the stress of coping with chronic illness.

Fever: Most people with lupus will sometimes have a low-grade fever related to the disease. Fever is sometimes a first sign of the disease.

Changes in weight: Many people with lupus lose weight when their disease is active (flaring).

Hair loss: People with lupus may experience periods of hair loss, either in patches or spread evenly over the head. This hair loss is usually not permanent.

Swollen glands: Many people with lupus eventually develop swollen lymph glands during a flare.

Raynaud's phenomenon: Some people with lupus have Raynaud's phenomenon. It affects the small vessels that supply blood to the skin and the soft tissues under the skin of the fingers and toes, causing them to turn white and/or blue or red. The skin affected will feel numb, tingly, and cold to the touch.

Inflammation of blood vessels in the skin (cutaneous vasculitis): Inflammation or bleeding from the blood vessels can lead to small or large blue spots or small reddish spots on the skin or nail beds.

Swelling of the hands and feet: Some people with lupus have kidney problems, which can prevent extra fluids from being removed from the body tissues. As fluid collects, the hands and feet may swell.

Anemia: Anemia is a decrease in the amount of the oxygen-carrying substance (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells. Many people with an ongoing disease such as lupus develop anemia because they don't have enough red blood cells.Type your paragraph here.

Cognitive Loss

The term "lupus fog" is almost universally known to people with lupus. The phrase reflects the difficulty that you may have in completing once-familiar tasks such as remembering names and dates, keeping appointments, balancing your checkbook or processing your thoughts. Called "cognitive dysfunction" or "cognitive impairment," this inability to recall information can be extremely frustrating. Symptoms may come and go or be continuous, making school or work difficult or even impossible in extreme cases. People with both lupus and fibromyalgia are even more likely to experience cognitive problems.

Lupus and Infections:

​The immune system of a person with lupus is weakened by both the disease and the medication used to treat it, which allows infection. The most common infections for people with lupus include those of the respiratory tract, skin and urinary system. If you believe you may have an infection please seek immediate medical attention. 

Lupus and Chemotheraphy:

Many do not know that lupus can sometimes require patients to take chemotheraphy in order to control this mysterious disease. Some doctors prescribe cancer-fighting drugs for lupus because they have few other options to slow down an immune system gone haywire. Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®) and mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept®) arechemotherapy drugs that have very powerful effects on reducing the activity of the immune system. They are used to treat more severe forms of lupus, especially lupus that affects the kidneys.

Despite the diagnosis of Lupus rest assure you can live a long and prosperous life with Lupus as long as you take care of yourself. Yes you may have challenging days but they won't last forever, you are in this fight to win.... don't ever give up, keep your faith, hope, and help other butterflies to be successful like you!!!

Fibromyalgia & Lupus National Association

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