Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. It can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.
There are several types of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): This is the most common form of lupus. It can be mild or severe.
- Discoid lupus: This causes a red rash that doesn’t go away.
- Subacute cutaneous lupus: This causes sores after being out in the sun.
- Neonatal lupus: It is quite rare, affecting newborns. It is probably caused by certain antibodies from the mother.
- Drug-induced lupus: It is caused by certain medicines. It usually goes away when you stop taking the medicine. Some common medicines known to cause drug-induced lupus erythematosus (DILE) include Isoniazid, Hydralazine, Procainamide, and Anti-seizure medicines.
Anyone can get lupus, but it is more common in women. It’s also more common in people of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent. Most people are diagnosed with lupus between the ages of 15 and 40, but children and older adults can also develop the condition.
Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States, and 5 million people worldwide, are affected by the disease, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
What are the symptoms of Lupus
Lupus symptoms can vary widely from person to person, depending on which body systems are affected by the disease. Some people may only experience a few mild symptoms, while others may be more severely affected.
People with lupus generally experience flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of remission. That’s why early symptoms are easy to dismiss. Some of the common early symptoms of lupus include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Unexplained fever
- Joint pain
- Unusual hair loss
- Dry eyes
- Memory loss
- Chest pain
- Rashes, usually occur in the face
- Swollen joints and lymph glands
- Raynaud’s phenomenon – Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods.
When to seek a doctor
You should see your doctor if you have persistent symptoms that you think could be caused by lupus. While it is likely that your symptoms are being caused by other condition, it’s important to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Lupus in women
Women with lupus may have a higher risk of developing certain other health issues.
The following conditions are often occur in women with lupus:
Heart disease: Women with lupus are 50 times more likely than others of the same age to have a heart attack, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
Osteoporosis: Women with lupus are more likely to experience bone loss and fractures than healthy women.
Kidney disease: About 90 percent of people with lupus will have some type of kidney damage, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Even though only 2 to 3 percent of people with lupus develop severe kidney disease that requires treatment.
Since lupus is more common in women during their childbearing years, women with lupus are at increased risk of developing lupus. Experts are researching the role hormones like estrogen might play in the development of the disease.
Lupus in men
While lupus is sometimes considered a “woman’s disease,” but men can develop it as well. In fact, in people under age 18 and over age 50, as many men as women have lupus, according to the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation.
Some doctors have limited experience in diagnosing and treating men with lupus. Be sure to find a doctor who can effectively treat your disease.