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People in my little circle of loved ones have heard A LOT about Lupus and what it is, the general population doesn’t know much at all. But according to researchers, they believe at least five million people worldwide have lupus. Before I found out I had Lupus, I knew hardly anything about it, and only learned what I did after reading everything I could find on the internet and in books.
I get questions all the time about what it is, how you get it, and what treatment there is. And no, it isn’t contagious. 🙂 In the next few weeks I will be doing little mini-blogs discussing Lupus, symptoms, treatments and how to help your loved ones and friends if they have an auto-immune disease.
So, what is Lupus?
Lupus is an auto-immune disease. Auto-immune diseases are basically explained as diseases where your body attacks its own tissues. Your body produces antibodies that attack your own microbes, rather than foreign microbes like they are supposed to. Just like it would the common cold, it sees your own tissues as the enemy and does what it can to attack it and get rid of it.
There are a few different types of Lupus. The type of Lupus I have, and the type I’ll be talking about here, is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE. It can cause problems with one or more organs including your skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and/or nervous system.
According to the NIH, some common symptoms are:
Pain or swelling in joints
Fever with no known cause
Red rashes, most often on the face
Chest pain when taking a deep breath
Pale or purple fingers or toes
Sensitivity to the sun
Swelling in legs or around eyes
Feeling very tired.
There are no EXACT tests doctors can perform to say whether or not you have Lupus. They do have criteria you have to fit within in order to be diagnosed with Lupus. They normally say you have to have 4 of the 11 criteria at one time to receive a diagnosis.
Malar rash: butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
Discoid (skin) rash: raised red patches
Photosensitivity: skin rash as a result of unusual reaction to sunlight
Mouth or nose ulcers: usually painless
Nonerosive Arthritis (bones around joints do not get destroyed): in 2 or more joints with tenderness, swelling, or effusion
Cardio-pulmonary involvement: inflammation of the lining around the heart (pericarditis) and/or lungs (pleuritis)
Neurologic disorder: seizures and/or psychosis/cognitive dysfunction
Renal (kidney) disorder: excessive protein in the urine, or cellular casts in the urine
Hematologic (blood) disorder: hemolytic anemia, low white blood cell count, or low platelet count
Immunologic disorder: antibodies to double stranded DNA, antibodies to Sm, or antibodies to cardiolipin
Antinuclear antibodies (ANA): positive test in absence of drugs known to induce it
Diagnosis for most people can take a long time, even years. Until there is further study, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to Lupus, even something that would seem as simple like diagnostic testing. I was lucky that I had hallmark symptoms (lucky, ha!) and was able to get a super quick diagnosis. Thankfully I have wonderful doctors and receive great care.
I hope this will give you a basic understanding of Lupus! Next time I will cover what causes Lupus and hereditary links.
Have a WONDERFUL Tuesday!