Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that materializes when the body’s immune system begins to attack its own tissues and organs. The inflammation that results from lupus can affect many different areas throughout the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs.
Lupus is far more often observed in women than in men but no clear connection for this observation has been discerned. There are four kinds of lupus in existence they are systemic lupus erythematosus, discoid lupus erythematosus, drug-induced lupus erythematosus, and neonatal lupus. Of the types identified, systemic lupus erythematosus is by far the most common and serious form of lupus.
The prognosis for people with this disease was very poor in the past however improvements in the diagnosis and treatment methods implemented for lupus have greatly enhanced the probability of surviving with the condition. Once the disease is treated most people with the disease can lead regular lives.
Because it is an autoimmune disease, it not only attacks foreign substances that may enter the body, such as bacteria and viruses, but also promotes the immune system to attack healthy tissue. As said before this brings about inflammation and resultant damage to different sections of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.
It is not yet known what causes the disease, like other autoimmune diseases it remains a mystery. It is speculated that it is the result of a combination of factors, most specifically, the patient’s genes and the environment. Some experts also think that a person may inherit a predisposition to lupus, but not the actual disease itself. Instead, people with this probably inherited predisposition for the disease may only develop the condition when they make some form of contact with something in the environment that may induce lupus, including some types of medication or a virus.
The disease does not have to develop in the same way for all individuals affected by the disease. Signs and symptoms may occur suddenly or develop gradually. They may be mild or severe and may be transient with fluctuating periods of the associated symptoms or permanent. Most people affected by lupus have a mild form of the disease characterized by episodes which are considered flares when signs and symptoms are exacerbated for a short period, then improve or even disappear completely for some time.
The signs and symptoms of lupus that an individual will experience will greatly depend on the areas of the body that are troubled by the condition.
However, the more regular signs and symptoms may include any of the following:
Weight loss or gain
Fingers and toes that turn white or blue during exposure to cold or during stressful periods. This is called Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
Butterfly-shaped rash or malar rash on the face that covers sections of the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
Skin lesions that appear and are actually worsened by sun exposure
Hair loss (alopecia)
Shortness of breath
Once an individual develops an unexplained rash, ongoing fever, persistent aching, or fatigue, he or she should consult a doctor to rule out the possibility that it could be lupus.
Once a person has been diagnosed with lupus, he or she should have routine consultations with a doctor so that the condition can be treated and monitored properly. In addition, any new symptoms should be assessed immediately.