Lupus, the Mystery Disease
There are about 1.5 million people in America with lupus and about 16,000 reported new cases each year. But what exactly is lupus and how do you get it? Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes something in the body to go wrong, rendering the body’s defenses helpless, unable to protect healthy cells and tissues.
Lupus from the Latin word meaning “wolf”, because of the destructive lesions the disease has been known to cause (reminiscent of bites), has been around a very long time and still, it is a mystery to the scientific community who don’t know what causes it. They can only speculate that it develops in response to a combination of factors both inside and outside the body, including hormones, genetics, and environment.
Women are more prone to the disease than men. And women of different ethnicities, in particular African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women.
What are the symptoms?
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases these are the more common symptoms:
- Pain or swelling in joints
- Muscle pain
- Fever with no known cause
- Red rashes, most often on the face
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath
- Hair loss
- Pale or purple fingers or toes
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Swelling in legs or around eyes
- Mouth ulcers
- Swollen glands
- Feeling very tired
Less common symptoms include:
- Anemia (a decrease in red blood cells)
- Dizzy spells
- Feeling sad
The disease is difficult to diagnose because symptoms come and go, and might vary from person to person. Some people with the disease might develop problems with heart, lungs, kidneys, blood cells or nervous system, as well as having some of the other signs. No one test has yet been developed, so doctors still rely on medical history, complete blood work, urinalysis, in addition to assessing the condition of both the kidneys and liver.
The Lupus Foundation of America lists the following examples of triggers that might set the illness in motion:
- ultraviolet rays from the sun
- ultraviolet rays from fluorescent light bulbs
- sulfa drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun, such as: Bactrim® and Septra® (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole); sulfisoxazole Gantrisin®); tolbutamide (Orinase®); sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®); diuretics
- sun-sensitizing tetracycline drugs such as minocycline (Minocin®)
- penicillin or other antibiotic drugs such as: amoxicillin (Amoxil®); ampicillin (Ampicillin Sodium ADD-Vantage®); cloxacillin (Cloxapen®)
- an infection
- a cold or a viral illness
- an injury
- emotional stress, such as a divorce, illness, death in the family, or other life complications
- anything that causes stress to the body, such as surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, or giving birth
What about treatment?
Treatment for lupus depends on individual symptoms – how the disease manifests itself. The most common treatments used to control the disease include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Antimalarial drugs
- Immune suppressants
There is still much research being done to better understand this disease.
If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.
References: Medscape.com, niams.nih.gov, WebMD, Lupus.org, Mayo Clinic, EverydayHealth.com
By WHBlogger 05/30/2014
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