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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lupus: Causes, Symptoms, Complications

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Many people don’t even know of the existence of a disease named lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s immune system begins to attack the persons own body tissues and cells. Normally, the body is protected from germs, viruses, bacteria and any other foreign entity that wants to enter into the body and cause it harm by the immune system.

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But when a person is affected by lupus, the persons own immune system turns against the body and begins to attack normal cells which form body tissues. This attack then causes damage to the body cells and inevitably the tissues of the body.

Funny but the exact cause of lupus isn’t known yet till now. However, it is known that there is a trigger that causes the body’s own immune system to begin to attack the body, but this exact trigger also known as the cause has not yet been discovered.

There are several factors however that contribute to the wide spread of lupus across the body and they include the persons genetic information and make up, the kind of viruses that may have invaded the body and likewise, environmental factors can also be a very big contributor to who and who gets lupus.

Lupus is a very chronic autoimmune disorder which is has a long-lasting effects and symptoms. One very important thing to note about lupus is the fact that no two individuals have the same kind of symptoms. This means that symptoms vary from person to person.

Lupus usually mimics symptoms of other diseases and hence this makes the lupus disease very difficult to diagnose hence no one knows it’s original cause or trigger. Many people suffer from lupus but so many other people don’t know what the patients are going through.

The percentage of women having lupus is higher than that of men hence it is believed that the female reproductive hormones may be a contributing factor to the rapid movement of lupus.

And this is mostly because women who develop lupus develop it during their reproductive years while they are still fertile and when their levels of the female reproductive hormones are highest and at its peak.

Lupus causes severe inflammation and swelling to the joints, inflammation of the skin cells and tissues and likewise also inflammation of some internal organs. There are two distinct types of lupus that can affect an individual and they include:

Discoid Lupus erythematosus (others known as D.L.E): D.L.E mainly affects the part of the skin that is severely exposed to the radiation of the sun. This means it only affects external organs and not internal organs. It is usually the most severe and chronic form of skin or cutaneous lupus.

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A person suffering from D.L.E will always experience scaly and disc-like skin plaques that is very much persistent and resistant. And this is usually seen on the scalp, ears and face which may lead to scars and sometimes hair loss.

D.L.E doesn’t affect internal organs, but it comes up as a severe rash on the external organs. D.L.E is a disease that affects both ladies and guys, but it is usually more prevalent in women within the age range of 20years – 44years.

D.L.E causes rash and when there is an exposure to sunlight, the rash gets to spread and cover mostly the entire skin it spreads to. It is more common and usually more experienced than the systemic lupus erythematosus. Although a small minority of patients having D. L.E will go on to experience systemic lupus.

Systemic Lupus erythematosus (also known as S.L.E): it is a chronic form of the autoimmune disease called lupus. It is associated with the production of antibodies which are unusually formed in the body. It is said that viruses, drugs, ultraviolet rays as well as genetics play a role in the malformation of this antibodies thereby causing systemic lupus erythematosus.

Systemic lupus affects almost every organ in the body. Genetic factors increase one’s chance of developing autoimmune diseases. An exposure to sunlight can cause a trigger of someone who has the tendency of lupus occurring to occur. Lupus can also be induced by drugs.

A handful of drugs have been seen to trigger lupus. Drugs such as hydralazine, quinidine sulphate and procainamide have been seen to trigger lupus and its symptoms.

Lupus

There are some signs and symptoms that will be observed by an individual suffering from lupus and they include;

  1. Excessive tiredness: Since it is the immune system releasing antibodies to attack the body, the muscles likewise are not spared. Once these antibodies start attacking the muscles, it will cause muscle weakness and excessive feeling of tiredness and general body weakness.
  2. Fever: Once these antibodies are released, the body will still try to respond by trying to fight off the disease and hence causing fever. The fever will start out as mild then it might gradually increase depending on the level or stage of the disease.
  3. The patient will also experience loss of appetite
  4. Another symptom of the disease is that the person will experience hair loss.
  5. Arthritis
  6. Facial rash with the shape of a butterfly. Hence, most times this rash is called a butterfly rash.
  7. Light sensitivity: The patient will experience unusual sensitivity to light and light sensitivity.
  8. Another symptom that will be experienced is severe chest pain due to swelling and severe inflammation of the inner lining of the lungs (inflammation of the pleural lining also known as pleuritis) and the person will also experience inflammation around the internal lining of the heart also known as pericarditis.
  9. The person will experience poor circulation of blood around the body most especially the fingers and toes. This will occur mostly upon contact with cold temperatures therefore displaying the Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  10. Often times, systemic lupus erythematosus often presents with deep scarring of the skin. Although, for D. L.E the skin is mostly involved (doesn’t affect the internal organs). Although the skin lesions and rash are mostly seen on the face and the scalp. They are not painful and mostly generally would not itch.

There are some complications that exist for a long period of time and they usually reduce the life expectancy rate of people living with lupus. These complications include:

  1. Inflammation of the blood vessels known as vasculitis
  2. Heart attack due to inflammation of the heart lining
  3. Stroke may occur
  4. The person may begin to experience memory changes and loss
  5. If the inflammation reaches the brain cells, the person may experience seizures.
  6. The person will begin to experience decreased kidney function and kidney failure.

For a person that is pregnant, systemic lupus can cause severe complications and problems during the time of pregnancy. It can lead to severe negative effects and if care isn’t taken, it can cause miscarriage or still birth depending on the stage of the pregnancy in which the disease decides to manifest.

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There is no cure for lupus. Most of the treatments is mostly to simply eradicate the symptoms that are already occurring. You don’t treat lupus, you rather treat the symptoms.

It is untreatable because the cause hasn’t been identified hence the difficulty and inability to treat. Hence, it can be said that lupus is only managed. If you have lupus, it is very imperative that you protect yourself from sunlight and stay away from ultraviolet rays.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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