Lupus is an immune system disease. The immune system protects our body from infection. However, in lupus, the immune system attacks tissues inappropriately in different parts of the body. The abnormal activity results in illness and tissue damage. Inflammation caused by this disease affects various body systems such as skin, joints, blood cells, heart, brain, and lungs.
It is very difficult to diagnose lupus because its symptoms and signs are common to other ailments. Its most distinctive sign is a facial rash that occurs in many patients though not in all lupus cases.
Most patients suffering from lupus get a diagnosis between 15-44 years. Only 15% of people receive lupus symptoms before 18 years of age. Demographic as well as other factors may affect the progression and severity of its condition. Lupus is highly prevalent among women who are of childbearing age. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, its prevalence is 2-3 times higher among women of color.(1) It is often found that women belonging to minority groups develop this disease younger and have severe symptoms and they have higher chances of death from lupus compared to others.
Early Signs of Lupus
No two lupus cases are exactly the same. Symptoms and signs may develop slowly or suddenly or can be severe or mild and can be permanent or temporary. Many people suffering from lupus have mild disease that is characterized by episodes known as flares. The symptoms and signs become worse for some time but then disappear completely or improve for a time.(2)
Many patients do not get a diagnosis instantly as it can mimic other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and others that impact the same organs. Any symptom of inflammation or illness may signal lupus. However, the signs that are associated closely with lupus are the following:(3)
- Butterfly-shaped rashes on the face
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches, memory loss and confusion
- Skin changes
- Hair loss
- Swelling in feet and hands
- Sores in the nose or mouth
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Toes and fingers turn blue or white during a stressful time or when exposed to cold
- Skin lesions that worsen with exposure to the sun
- Sores on scalp.
With time, lupus may result in severe complications such as:(3)
- Organ failure
- Fatigue and chronic pain
- Infections and autoimmune issues
- An enlarged head in babies
- Breathing difficulties.
In a few cases, doctors may recommend to wait and see whether these symptoms change with time.
Follow-up for Lupus
People with lupus often find it difficult to live with. Some might struggle regarding their long-term outlook. Fatigue and chronic pain make it difficult. Some get relief from psychotherapy. Though lupus is not curable, there are many effective treatments. Patients with lupus may live happy and long lives. Women may have successful pregnancies. People who suspect to have lupus should look for prompt treatment.(1, 3) If the disease is left untreated for a longer time period, it might cause severe complications. Doctors who are knowledgeable can offer the best treatment and therefore, select a doctor who cares and listens.
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- Can Lupus Nephritis Be Cured?
- How Does Lupus Affect The Kidneys?
- Can A Person Die From Lupus Nephritis?