Lupus is one of the most terrifying diseases. Why? It’s an autoimmune disease, in which immune system cells start attacking your body’s tissues. But why would it do that? Often times, it’s a result of an infection. When the body starts cracking down on an infection, the immune system activates. However, there are times that the immune system goes overboard. And this is what Lupus does. Lupus then causes your immune system cells to attack the other cells in your body.
The next question would be, “Can Lupus kill you?”
The answer is: yes. Yes, Lupus can kill you by causing a variety of strokes and cardiac arrests. Because it’s already affecting your metabolic processes, your body is losing control over its circadian rhythm (body rhythms). If Lupus is not the one that kills you, it would be another sort of infection. Because one of the medications for Lupus include immunosuppressants, the immune system would be suppressed which would allow other infections to invade.
But how do you know if you have Lupus? Lupus has a wide variety of symptoms and people have documented at least 11 symptoms of Lupus! But good news is, Lupus has a distinct and unique signature to show that one may be inflicted with Lupus.
When it comes to diagnosing Lupus, doctors first check through one’s urine. They check if the urine has a high red blood cell count. Or, if your urine has proteins present. Doctors also perform an Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA). If the test reads as positive, that means one has a stimulated immune system and that could be a sign for Lupus. However, this doesn’t show where exactly the Lupus is attacking. Because of its versatile nature as a disease, Lupus can show up in different parts of the body.
Symptoms of Lupus
When checking for Lupus, there are 11 different symptoms to look at:
- Butterfly-shaped rash – Also known as a malar rash, often times people who have this look like they’re blushing. The rash can range from being extremely red to being scaly. The malar rash or the butterfly rash often appears on the face.
- Raised red patches on your skin – Often times, these raised red patches take the form of rings or discs. Hence, they are also known as “discoid lupus” due to its shape.
- Photosensitivity – This means your eyes or skin are severely sensitive to light. This can either result in temporary blindness or intense pain.
- Ulcers in the mouth and nose
- Arthritis, tenderness, and swelling in two or more joints
- Inflammation of the tissue lining in the heart and lungs
- Seizures or other nerve problems – Seizures occur if the patient has systemic lupus erythematosus which cause metabolic complications hence the occurrence of seizures.
- High amounts of protein in the urine – This depends on the kind of lupus one has. If they have the glomerular kind of lupus, it will cause the glomeruli to leak protein into your urine. If there is a high amount of protein in your urine, you will notice that your urine is rather foamy instead of just plain liquid.
Treatment for Lupus
Depending on your case for Lupus, several drugs might be prescribed. Some of the medicines include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – These are over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. These include drugs such as naproxen sodium (commonly known as Aleve) or Ibuprofen (Advil). Using these drugs are often used to treat pain, swelling, and fever caused by Lupus. For stronger drugs, people need to get a prescription. However, this is not commonly suggested due to the side effects such as stomach bleeding, kidney problems, and increased risk of heart problems.
- Antimalarial drugs – This particular set of drugs target Malaria. Some of these medications include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) which affects the immune system. Taking this kind of drug can help decrease the risk of lupus flares. However, the side effects can include upset stomach and damage to the retina of the eye. While taking these drugs, make sure to have an eye check up to know whether or not the drug should be stopped.
- Immunosuppressants – Drugs such as azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan) are helpful when it comes to Lupus. Since Lupus is an autoimmune disease, these drugs suppress the activity of your immune system so the Lupus can be further treated. However, these also come with side effects such as higher risk of infection because of a dead immune system, liver damage because of the filtration, decreased fertility and higher chances of cancer.
- Corticosteroids – Corticosteroids such a Prednisone can counter the inflammatory effects of Lupus. Other corticosteroids such as methylprednisone (A-Methapred) are used to control serious diseases which affect the kidneys and the brain. However, the problem with this particular medicine is that it causes weight gain, easy bruising and can make someone more susceptible to osteoporosis. Among the many other side effects include high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased risk of infection. And the longer the duration of the treatment, the higher the risk.
- Biologics – Biologics is a different kind of medication which is sent through the blood. However, this has a more specific kind of lupus as it only affects specific symptoms in some people. However, side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, and, more infections. For those who have mental disorders, this may not be recommended. Especially for those who suffer from mood disorders, biologics may worsen depressive episodes.
- Rituximab (Rituxan) – This particular drug is more beneficial with a more resistant and persistent lupus. However, there are side effects. These include allergic reaction to the intravenous infusion and infections.
When trying to treat Lupus at home after the hospital, there are other ways to continue the treatment. Some of these treatment include:
- Exercise – This would help in strengthening the heart and bones. If the drug one is taking thins out bones and increases heart risk, exercise would help in improving bone and heart health.
- Take more Vitamin D – This is to strengthen the absorption of calcium into your bones. This would also help improve your bone health after taking medicines that thin out your bones.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits – For one having Lupus, most doctors would recommend a whole grain, fruit, and vegetable diet. This would further increase your body’s health in order to sustain the medicine as it fights off the Lupus.