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Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes defense cells to attack he althy cells in the body, which can cause inflammation in various parts of the body, especially joints, skin, eyes, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs.
Usually, lupus, also known as lupus erythematosus, is most common in young women between the ages of 14 and 45, and its symptoms appear from birth. However, it is common for the disease to be identified several years after the first symptoms, due to a crisis of more intense symptoms after an infection, use of some medication or even due to exaggerated exposure to the sun.
Although there is no cure for lupus, there are some treatments, indicated by the rheumatologist, that help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life, and the use of anti-inflammatory, corticosteroid or immunosuppressive drugs may be indicated.
Lupus can affect any organ or part of the body, so symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Still, some of the most common symptoms include:
- General malaise;
- Weight loss;
- Red spots on the skin, especially on the face in the shape of a butterfly wing and in other places exposed to the sun;
- Hair loss;
- Sensitivity to light;
- Vision blurred;
- Ulcers in the mouth or throat;
- Pain or inflammation in joints;
- Abdominal pain;
- Mental changes such as depression or psychosis;
- Renal changes such as glomerulonephritis.
These symptoms usually appear in crises, that is, they appear intensely for a few days or weeks and then disappear again, but there are also cases in which the symptoms always remain constant. Learn more about lupus symptoms.
Depending on the case, the symptoms of lupus can end up being similar to other more common problems, such as diabetes or arthritis, and therefore, diagnosis may take longer, as the doctor needs to eliminate other causes.
Types of lupus
The most common type of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus, however there are 4 main types of lupus which include:
1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by inflammation in various parts and organs of the body, especially skin, joints, heart, kidneys and lungs, causing spots on the skin exposed to the sun, joint symptoms such as arthritis, anemia, decrease in defense cells and platelets, and changes in the central nervous system, mainly.
2. Discoid or cutaneous lupus
Discoid or cutaneous lupus causes the appearance of lesions only on the skin, not reaching other organs.This type of lupus causes the appearance of red patches on the skin, especially on the scalp and face. However, some people with discoid lupus can progress to systemic lupus over time. Learn more about discoid lupus.
3. Drug-induced lupus
Drug-induced lupus occurs due to prolonged use of certain medications, such as hydralazine, procainamide, or isoniazid, as they cause temporary inflammation. Symptoms usually disappear within a few months of stopping the drug.
4. Neonatal lupus
Neonatal lupus is one of the rarer types of lupus, but it can happen in babies born to women with lupus.
How to confirm the diagnosis
The diagnosis of lupus is made by the rheumatologist through a series of laboratory tests to evaluate the presence of antibodies that are produced in this disease, such as the antinuclear antibody test (ANA), anti-double stranded DNA antibodies, antibodies anti-Smith (SM) and antiphospholipid antibodies, for example.Learn more about the FAN test.
In addition, the doctor may also order blood tests, urinalysis, and examinations of some organs to rule out other problems that may cause similar symptoms.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that is usually caused by genetic mutations that occur during the development of the fetus in the womb and, therefore, is not a contagious disease that can be transmitted. In addition, other factors have been related to the development of lupus, such as female gender, age, being more common between 20 and 30 years old, and African-American descent.
However, it is possible to be born without any symptoms and only develop them during adulthood, due to factors that can stimulate the appearance of these symptoms such as prolonged exposure to the sun, viral infections or the use of some medications.
How the treatment is done
Treatment of lupus should be guided by the rheumatologist according to the type of disease, symptoms presented and frequency with which they occur.Although there is no treatment capable of curing lupus, the doctor may indicate the use of some remedies that help relieve symptoms during periods of crisis, and may be recommended:
- Anti-inflammatories, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, to relieve fever and joint pain or swelling;
- Antimalarials, such as hydroxychloroquine, help treat light sensitivity, hair loss, skin blemishes and joint pain;
- Corticoids, such as prednisone or betamethasone, are indicated in severe cases of lupus to prevent central nervous system disorders, hemolytic anemia, and other symptoms that have not improved with other treatments;
- Immunosuppressants, such as azathioprine or methotrexate, are indicated in the most severe cases, where symptoms can be life-threatening, such as severe changes in the central nervous system, glomerulonephritis or, in cases where treatment with corticosteroids was not effective.
Furthermore, it is still important to always take care to relieve symptoms, such as applying sunscreen daily and having he althy lifestyle habits. See more about lupus treatment.
Care during treatment
Some care may be recommended by the rheumatologist during the treatment of lupus, to help relieve symptoms, such as sleeping the recommended amount of hours for the person's age, avoiding sun exposure, in addition to using sunscreen, clothes protective clothing, such as a hat, long-sleeved clothing, or clothing that has an SPF 40 sun protection factor. See the recommended amount of sleep per age.
In addition, it is also important to follow an anti-inflammatory diet to prevent the onset of symptoms and even reduce their intensity, and avoid the consumption of foods rich in sugar, such as soft drinks, cakes, and ice cream., for example.See an example menu for lupus.