Lupus treatment

If you or anyone you know suffers from lupus, it is important to understand what actions and methods are available to you for viable lupus treatment. Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body’s immune system overreacts, attacking one’s own tissues. Lupus typically targets the skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. It can affect a patient’s vital organs like the kidneys, lungs, heart and brain, and ranges in severity. Lupus is a chronic disease and lupus treatment varies according to the degree to which a person is suffering.

Lupus usually occurs in two forms. It is most common in women of childbearing years, but still affects people of both sexes and all ages. Lupus develops when the immune system produces auto-antibodies. These are antibodies that attack tissue, causing what can become very severe inflammation, resulting in pain and swelling. The two types of lupus are “systemic lupus erythematosus,” which affects several different parts of the body and “discoid lupus erythematosus,” which only affects the skin. Lupus is believed to be caused from any combination of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors. Symptoms are many. They include skin rashes, swollen joints, muscle aching, weight loss, hair loss, lesions on the nose and cheeks, and loss of appetite.

To determine if a patient has lupus, their medical history is examined and symptoms recorded. A physical examination is performed as well as lab testing. No single laboratory test can conclusively determine if a patient has lupus. A number of tests can help however. For example, the anti-nuclear antibody test will detect the presence of auto-antibodies. Just about all lupus sufferers test positive. The anti-DNA antibody test will specifically confirm or deny the existence of the patient’s antibodies to DNA. Often tests are done to determine if immune complexes are present in the blood. These are combinations of antibodies and the substances they react with. Kidney biopsies have been used to diagnose lupus as well.

The American College of Rheumatology has provided a list of 11 symptoms, and determined that anyone suffering from at least four of them is likely to have lupus. They are as follows.

  • butterfly rash: a red rash across the nose and cheeks
  • discoid lesions: red, raised patches on the body in a circular shape
  • photosensitivity: red rashes on the skin from exposure to sunlight
  • oral ulcers: sores in the mouth or inside the nose that are blister-like in appearance and often painless
  • arthritis: inflammation in the joints causing pain
  • chest and heart problems: chest pain, inflammation in the chest, difficulty breathing
  • neurological disorders: examples include suddenly beginning to experience seizures or psychosis
  • kidney disease or failure
  • blood cell disturbances: red or white blood cell deficiency
  • immunologic disruption: dysfunction of the immune system causing it to attack healthy bodily tissues
  • antinuclear antibodies: the presence of antibodies that fight cell nuclei

Treatments will vary since the symptoms and severity of the disease range so widely. Every individual must work with their doctor to understand what the best course of action is for himself or herself. After time, patients are able to find an effective combination of treatments. Rest is very important, but exercise can help with circulation and swelling as well. For patients who react to the sun, avoiding sun exposure is a given.

A number of medications are prescribed for specific symptoms as well. Anti-inflammatory agents can be purchased over the counter, but for more severe problems, cortocosteroid drugs are administered to target inflammation. Side effects include weight gain, acne, and bloating in the face. Often these cortocosteroids will be taken every other day instead of every day to reduce unwanted side effects.

Antimalarial drugs have been useful to treat lupus symptoms, in spite of there being no known connection between lupus and malaria. Hydroxychloroquine is the most frequently prescribed antimalarial medication for lupus patients. These drugs sometimes cause muscle weakness and vision problems.

Your doctor will determine what the best course of action is for your personal lupus treatment. It always helps to know a bit about the disease and common treatment methods before facing your individual case. With the right measures, lupus can be manageable and symptoms can be kept in check.

Last updated on Apr 7th, 2010 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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