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What is Lupus?

Find out more about Lupus (SLE) and its symptoms.

Author: Natasha Dadour MPH, MPAS, PA-C, Physician Associate.

What is Lupus?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosu (SLE), also known as Lupus, is a chronic condition that affects multiorgan systems. The major organ systems involved are : musculokeletal, skin, cardiac, neurologic, pulmonary, and renal. However, essentially any organ system can be affected. The average time to reach a diagnosis of Lupus is about six years, because symptoms appear and spontaneously disappear making it challening for medical providers to diagnose. If left untreated, Lupus can be life threatening.

Thankfully, there’s a substantial amount of treatment options to optimize quality of life and improve prognosis.

What causes Lupus?

Generally speaking, Lupus is an over-reaction of the immune system and it is classified as an Autoimmune Disease. It’s true cause is yet to be discovered. An intricate interplay between immunologic, hormonal, genetic and enviornment factors take place. Geography and race play a role with a higher prevelance in urban dwellers. Females are more likely to have Lupus than males because there is an estrogen factor. Asian, African and Hispanics are some of the more commonly affected racial groups however, interestingly, in Africa Lupus is not common.

What are the symptoms of Lupus?

Patients experience different symptoms of Lupus in predicatable as well as unpredictable ways. The symptomatology is vague and masks other diseases. Fatigue, fever, and weight loss make up constitutional symptoms experienced by most in addition to any combination of the following : joint pain and inflammation, skin rashes on the face (butterfly distribution), blood vessel related rashes, dry eyes, eyelid swelling, headache, brain fog, blood clots, chest discomfort, chronic cough, photosensitivity (strangely uncomfortable to be under the sun as well as other symptoms).

What treaments are available for Lupus?

The overall goal when treating Lupus, as is the case with many other chronic conditions, is to minimize the flare ups and to prevent end organ damage. Immune therapy is typically used as long term management but potent anti-inflammatories like glucocorticoids are appropriately reserved for acute flare ups. Success in disease management is heavily dependent on the patient/physician relationship whereby clear communication is key and patient preference is taken seriously. Furtherlmore, patients need to follow up regularly with : ophthalmologists for eye care, cardiologists for cardiac screening, and pulmonologists for respiratory care. Immunologist, urologists/nephrologists, rheumatologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists and reproductive specialists are among other specialitists saught out by patients with Lupus.

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