What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues or organs.
Inflammation can occur throughout the skin, joints and internal organs such as the kidneys, blood cells, lungs, brain and heart.
Lupus is considered an autoimmune disease that can affect anyone, although it occurs more in women.
Lupus can present itself with no symptoms initially. Lupus is often diagnosed between the age of 15-40 years.
Types of Lupus
Lupus can be divided into several types, namely:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is the most common type of lupus that usually occurs on the skin, joints and kidneys.
- Cutaneous lupus erythematosus
Cutaneous lupus erythematosus is a type of lupus that attacks the skin.
- Neonatal lupus erythematosus
Neonatal lupus erythematosus usually occurs in newborns.
- Drug-induced lupus erythematosus
Drug-induced lupus erythematosus occurs as a result of long-term and temporary consumption of certain medications.
Causes of Lupus
The exact cause of lupus is unknown. Several factors or a combination of the following factors are thought to trigger a person’s propensity to develop lupus:
- Environmental factors
Exposure to cigarette smoke and hazardous chemicals, for example, silica dust.
- Genetic factors
Patients who have a family history of lupus have a high risk of developing lupus.
- Hormonal factors
It is thought that high levels of the estrogen hormone in the body can trigger lupus.
- Infectious disease factors
Several studies state that there is a link between lupus and infectious diseases caused by viruses, such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr, and hepatitis C.
- Medication factors
Medications such as procainamide and quinidine are suspected to contribute to lupus, especially if consumed continuously for a long time.
When to See a Doctor for Lupus?
Consult an allergist and immunologist immediately if you experience possible lupus symptoms.
An immunologist will check your personal and your family’s medical history and examine any skin rashes that appear.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may carry out further tests such as:
1. Laboratory Tests
Several laboratory tests are performed in the process of diagnosing lupus, including:
- Blood test
Blood test is done to count the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets as well as to detect anemia that is often experienced by people with lupus. In addition, blood tests are also used to check the functions of kidney and liver that might be affected by lupus.
- Urine test
Urine test is done to detect an increase in protein or red blood cell levels in the urine due to kidney disorders caused by lupus.
- ANA test (antinuclear antibody)
This test is done to check for the presence of certain antibodies in the blood.
2. Additional Tests
Additional tests are generally carried out to measure how much lupus has affected other organs. Additional tests include:
X-rays are done to see if there is a fluid buildup in the lungs due to inflammation caused by lupus.
Echocardiography is done to check the heart’s condition and detect heart defects that may occur due to lupus.
In this procedure, the doctor will obtain a sample of kidney or skin tissue, then analyse it in the laboratory.
Lupus might be difficult to diagnose. Getting a second medical opinion might be a good way for you to confirm your diagnosis and achieve optimal treatment.
You can use Smarter Health’s free services to get the following benefits:
- Specialist doctor recommendations
- Checking on your selected doctor’s schedule and booking an appointment
- Calculate estimated treatment costs
- Arrange for airport transfers
Symptoms of Lupus
In its early stages, lupus often does not present itself with symptoms. Symptoms of lupus can appear slowly, but also sometimes appear suddenly.
The symptoms vary, depending on the type of lupus and organs affected by lupus.
The main symptom of lupus is the appearance of a rash across the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. This symptom is known as a butterfly rash. The rash can be painful, itchy, and inflamed, especially when exposed to sunlight. A skin rash can also appear on your hands and wrists.
Apart from the main symptoms, lupus also has other symptoms that include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Joint pain
- Dry eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Memory loss
Other symptoms can arise when inflammation occurs in the kidneys and causes impaired kidney function (lupus nephritis). Symptoms include high blood pressure, blood in urine, and darker urine color.
Treatment for Lupus
The exact cure for lupus treatment has not been found until now.
Treatment for lupus only aims to reduce the severity of symptoms, prevent damage to your organs, and help you carry out daily activities by minimising their impact.
Medications for Lupus Patients
Common types of lupus medicines include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs)
Types of NSAID medications, such as naproxen and ibuprofen — are used to relieve pain, fever, and swelling caused by lupus.
Antimalarial drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine — can boost the immune system and lower the risk of developing a lupus rash. This medicine is also used to relieve joint and muscle pain due to lupus.
Corticosteroid medicines like prednisone, is used to treat inflammation caused by lupus.
Immunosuppressants, such as methotrexate and cyclophosphamide — are used to relieve symptoms of lupus and reduce the risk of damage to your body organs.
Rituximab is used when other medicines are no longer effective at treating common and severe lupus symptoms. Rituximab is given through intravenous infusion.
Treatment Cost for Lupus
The treatment cost for lupus depends on the tests and medications recommended by the doctor.
You can use Smarter Health’s free service to calculate the estimated treatment cost for lupus.
Prevention of Lupus
There has been no effective treatment found to prevent lupus completely. This is because the exact cause of lupus is unknown. However, there are several preventive measures that you can undertake to avoid lupus – one of which is by living a healthy lifestyle.
You can maintain a healthy lifestyle by maintaining personal hygiene, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, getting enough rest, and quitting smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. You are also encouraged to carry out regular health screenings.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Lupus
With the right medication, lupus patients can return to their daily activities normally.
The following are some recommended habits and practices for lupus patients:
- Wash your hands regularly, especially before and after eating, or after going to the bathroom. This is done to prevent the risk of infection.
- Eat healthy and nutritious food sources.
- Get plenty of rest
- Exercise regularly, especially walking or swimming.
- Perform relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to calm your mind and control stress. Stress can make lupus symptoms worse.
- Avoid direct sun exposure, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunlight can cause the lupus rash to recur. Apply sunscreen and wear long sleeves and trousers when you are outside.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can slow down the recovery process and cause symptoms to get worse.
- Routinely carry out health check ups to monitor the condition of lupus and determine the appropriate treatment