May Awareness: Lupus

Lupus

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Information about Lupus

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a widespread and chronic (lifelong) autoimmune disease that, for unknown reasons, causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissue and organs, including the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood or skin.  The immune system normally protects the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials.  In an autoimmune disease like lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissue.  The immune system then makes antibodies directed against “self.”

What are the symptoms of lupus?

Symptoms of lupus often mimic  other less serious illnesses.  They can range from mild to life threatening.  Other common symptoms include:  achy joints, frequent fevers of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, arthritis, prolonged or extreme fatigue, skin rashes and anemia.

Who gets lupus?

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that approximately 1.4 million Americans have a form of the disease.

It develops most often between the ages 15 and 44 and is two-to-three times more common among African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

What causes lupus?

Researchers do not know what causes lupus.  Environmental factors play a role in triggering the disease.  Some of the triggers include infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain drugs and hormones.

How is lupus diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made by a careful review of a person’s entire medical history and a physical examination, coupled with an analysis of the results obtained in routine laboratory tests and some specialized tests related to immune status.

How is lupus treated? 

Treatment approaches are based on the specific needs and symptoms of each person.  Commonly prescribed medications include:  nonsteroidal anti-flammatory drugs (NSAIDS), acetaminophen, corticosteroids, antimalarials, and immunomodulating drugs.

With current methods of therapy 80-90 percent of people with lupus can look forward to a normal lifespan.

For more information on lupus you can go to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) website:   http://www.niams.nih.gov

Information provided by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services www.hhs.gov

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