Lupus, which is also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic autoimmune disease of unknown etiology. The disease is characterized by inflammation in different organs and tissues of the body. It has long term implication on health, affecting skin, joints, brain, kidneys, and various other organs. In this disease, the immune system of body produces antibodies which mistakenly attack its own healthy tissues and organs giving rise to chronic inflammation.
The annual incidence of lupus in United States and European countries has been estimated to be 2 to 8 per 100,000. More than 80% of patients suffering from lupus disease are females. The highest incidence of lupus is between 10 to 50 years. People of Asian origin and African Americans are found to be more vulnerable to lupus disease.
Though the exact etiology remains unknown, certain factors have been implicated, they include genetics, physical and emotional stress, UV rays of sunlight, virus infections such as those causing infectious mononucleosis, female sex hormones, and certain drugs.
It is very difficult to catch lupus in its early stage; this is because early lupus symptoms are mild.
What Are The Early Signs And Symptoms Of Lupus?
The onset of early lupus symptoms can be acute or insidious. These symptoms may appear even before you suspect that they are lupus symptoms. Sometime they subside only to appear again after an interval of few days.
- Malaise and fatigue: it is the earliest symptom noted of lupus disease. Almost 90 percent of patients feel fatigued and tired. It is out of proportion to the physical or mental work done. Even mild form of lupus may cause extreme fatigue.
- Joint and muscle pain: almost 70 to 80 percent of patient may have excruciating joint and muscle pains, especially of the smaller joints. Arthritis and arthralgia are the presenting manifestations of lupus. Especially the joints of hands, wrists, knees and elbows are affected. Usually pain and swelling is in both sides of the joints. There may be swelling and warmth with slight redness in the joints. The pain is felt usually in the early morning after getting up.
- Skin rash: it is an important clue for diagnosis of lupus as most patients have it in its early stage. The common butterfly rash across the nose and cheeks is characteristic of lupus. The rash may remain for a long duration unlike other lupus symptoms which may go into a stage of remission. The red rash may also appear on arms, hands, moth and lips. There may be itching and scaling of skin at the site of rash.
- Sunlight sensitivity: the UV rays of sunlight may lead to development of redness and rash on the exposed portion of the body. Especially the face, neck and hands are affected.
- Oral ulcer are usually small, multiple and usually painless.
- Hair loss is generally diffuse.
Treatment For Lupus Disease
Lupus disease ranges in severity from mild variety of rash and arthritis to more devastating illness which includes renal failure and profound nervous system disturbance.
Before diagnosing the joint pain as that occurring from lupus, it is necessary to rule out other causes leading to joint pain.
Because of variability in the course of lupus, the treatment approach is more individualized and determined by the clinical manifestation of the disease.
- The physician may prescribe anti inflammatory medications to reduce the discomfort.
- General measure includes adequate rest with a proper 8 hour sleep and a nap during the day time is helpful, as the patient has marked fatigue symptom in lupus disease.
- Since the UV rays of sunlight aggravate lupus skin symptoms, avoid sunlight as far as you can if you are suffering from lupus. However if it is inevitable to go out in sun, wear long sleeve clothes and apply sunscreen before venturing out.
- Exercise regularly, a brisk walk for 30 minutes in a day is also helpful in recovering the flare-ups. Besides, it helps to reduces stress and fights depression.
- Eat healthy diet containing vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
- Doctors may prescribe routine calcium and vitamin D supplementation for those who are on steroids.
- Flax seed and fish oil contain omega 3 fatty acids. Studies have shown they decrease the inflammatory process in the body. However, it has to be taken only after consulting the doctor.