Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes systemic, or widespread inflammation. In this kind of disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It affects the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. The exact cause of SLE remains unclear but several studies link genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors to the development of this disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SLE is the most common type of lupus. It affects between 322,000 and 1.5 million people in the U.S., according to data from the NIH. Meanwhile
SLE can come and go in flares, and the severity can range from mild to severe. People may also experience symptoms that affect the kidneys, lungs, heart, or brain. SLE can also affect nearly all organs in the body but the symptoms may vary from person to person.
People who have SLE may experience skin problems including rashes and tiny red spots, fatigue, fever, painful or swollen joints, weight loss, sun sensitivity, mouth ulcers, anemia or low, red blood cell count, leukopenia, or low while blood cell count, chest pain, headaches, vision problems, abdominal pain, hair loss, and edema, or swelling of the limbs.
Skin problems are common among people with SLE. Some individuals with lupus have a red rash over their cheeks and the bridge of their nose called “butterfly” rash or malar rash. One type of lupus that generally affects the skin is called discoid lupus. People with this type of lupus experience skin rashes that are large, red, circular, and may even scar. The skin rashes are usually aggravated by sunlight. A common lupus rash called subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus is often worse after exposure to sunlight. It affects the arms, legs, and torso. A rare but serious form of lupus rash results in the development of large blisters is called “bullous” lupus rash.
The cause of SLE is unknown but some factors that may contribute to its development include viruses, environmental chemicals, and genetics. Female hormones are believed to play a role in the development of SLE, because women are affected much more often than men. This is true particularly during their reproductive years, when hormone levels are highest. Drug-induced lupus can occur after the use of some medications, such as hydralazine and procainamide. However, symptoms improve after the drug is discontinued.
The American College of Rheumatology has devised a criteria that could help doctors to properly diagnose lupus. A person should have at least four of the following criteria, after the same time or one after the other:
- Malar rash (butterfly rash)
- Discoid rash (red scaly rash that causes scarring)
- Photosensitivity (skin reaction or sensitivity to sunlight)
- Oral ulcers (mouth sores)
- Kidney disorder
- Neurological disorder
- Inflammation (of the lining around the lungs or the lining around the heart)
- Blood disorder (either anemia, leukopenia, lymphopenia or thrombocytopenia)
- Abnormal blood work (or a positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) result)
ANTINUCLEAR ANTIBODY (ANA) TEST
ANA Test is a screening tool that is used to detect antinuclear antibodies that are directed against certain structure within a cell’s nucleus. These are found in particular patters in people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus. This test is done by getting a sample of a person’s blood.
The type of treatment for lupus depends on the person’s age, type of medications he or she is taking, location and severity of the disease, and the type of drugs he or she is taking. People with mild features of the disease do not require treatment, while those who experience serious symptoms may require stronger medications. Here are some of the treatments for lupus:
These can be applied directly to the rashes. Steroids may also be used in higher doses when internal organs are threatened. However, higher doses are likely to produce side effects
This is used to keep mild lupus-related problems such as skin and joint disease under control. It is effective in preventing lupus flares.
This drug is used to reduce the activity of the immune system. Severe forms of lupus such as those that affect the brain and kidneys are treated by this drug.
This medication prevents the rejection of transplanted organs. It is used in more severe and serious features of lupus.
This chemotherapy drug also suppresses the immune system. It is popular for treating skin disease, and arthritis, which are non-life-threatening symptoms of lupus.
Doctors may also advise to make dietary changes to help manage symptoms.
The outlook for lupus varies, depending on the affected organs and the severity of symptoms. While there is no cure for lupus, there are some ways that will help improve one’s well-being and quality of life:
- Do low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and biking, to prevent muscle wasting
- Get enough rest
- Eat a balanced diet
- Avoid alcohol
- Do not smoke
- Get enough sun protection (lupus patients should have limited time under the sun. Wear sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen when going outdoors)
- Be wary of fevers (fevers may indicate infection or lead to lupus flare-up)
- Visit your doctor for proper checkups and medication