If you are a woman, chances are that you, someone in your family, or a friend is afflicted with lupus disease. This chronic autoimmune disease is prevalent, occurs mostly in women, and can make life painful and difficult for sufferers. What lupus disease does is cause the body’s immune system – usually used to fight off disease and dangerous bacteria – to instead attack itself. Lupus disease can cause this attack to affect any part of the body, and the attack generally results in painful inflammation of the afflicted body part and tissue damage.
Lupus disease occurs approximately 9 times as often in women as it occurs in men, and often attacks people between the ages of 15 and 50. Interestingly enough, people of non-European descent also seem to represent the brunt of lupus disease cases.
So what happens to sufferers of lupus disease? Well, studies of people with lupus disease have shown that the disease most often affects the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys and nervous system. If that sounds like almost all the major body systems, that’s because it unfortunately is. Luckily, the body’s central operating unit, the brain, is not among the list of body systems generally affected by lupus disease.
When someone, usually a woman of non-European descent, finds herself suffering from lupus, she is prone to outbreaks commonly called “flares.” During these flares, the disease acts up, causing the body to attack itself and the woman to feel pain. When the flare is over, lupus disease is said to have gone into remission, meaning that it is no longer causing the body to attack itself. Unfortunately, it is generally just a matter of time before lupus disease strikes again.
Fortunately, lupus disease is treatable, but as with many autoimmune diseases, the primary treatment for lupus disease has to do with treating the symptoms instead of the underlying cause. To do this, doctors prescribe medicines such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. Unfortunately, there is no cure for lupus disease, but fortunately the disease can be managed with proper treatment. For a long time, lupus disease was a fatal disease, but now that medical science has turned its attention to curing lupus disease, fatalities from this dangerous disease have become infrequent. For example, the survival rate among lupus victims in North American is 90% at 10 years and 78% at 20 years. With treatment, lupus suffers can live a productive life.
Wondering if you may have lupus? Let’s examine the signs and symptoms. First, it is important to note that lupus disease can be difficult to diagnose because it often mimics the signs and symptoms of other illnesses. For example, the common initial symptoms of lupus disease are fever, malaise, joint pains, fatigue and myalgias (muscle pain.) As you can see, these symptoms are fairly general, and for that reason, doctors often mistake lupus for another disease.
That’s why doctors often look to secondary symptoms such as dermatological symptoms. About 65% of lupus disease sufferers complain of skin symptoms, and one very telling skin symptom associated with lupus disease is called the “butterfly rash.” This rash appears on the face and is in the tell-tale butterfly shape. They can also suffer from thick, scaly red patches on the skin, ulcers in the mouth, nasal cavity, and vagina, and skin lesions. The joints can also be affected in lupus disease, though joint pain is often not debilitating. Further, anemia and heart problems can result from lupus disease.
If you think that you may be suffering from the signs and symptoms of lupus disease, contact your doctor immediately. Bring up your concern during your clinical visit, because lupus disease is often diagnosed as other conditions before it is discovered.
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