When our immune system works well to fight off viruses and infections, it’s pretty amazing, but when the system gets off track, the results can be debilitating.
For millions of Americans, their bodies’ immune systems can go haywire, mistake healthy cells for bad ones and attack them. This is called an autoimmune disease.
There are many autoimmune diseases. Lupus is one that affects more than 1.5 million Americans. That’s more than the total number of people who live in San Diego.
Anyone can get lupus, but women are most at risk. Lupus is more common in African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women.
The cause of lupus is not known, and there is no cure for lupus, but medicines and lifestyle changes can help control it.
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms vary widely from patient to patient. The symptoms resemble those of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have lupus, your symptoms may come and go. You may have symptoms one week and none the next.
The common lupus symptoms are:
There is no one test to diagnose lupus. It may take months or more to make the correct diagnosis.
If you have a concern about lupus, keep track of your symptom and let your health care professional know what they are and their frequency. Your provider will do an exam looking for rashes and other problem signs.
Your provider may request a blood or urine sample, or a skin or kidney biopsy for testing.
No single test can detect lupus, so multiple tests may be needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
The treatment will depend on the symptoms the patient has.
Other strong medications such as antimalaria drugs, corticosteroids, chemotherapy drugs and biologic drugs might be prescribed for more serious symptoms.
Each patient will need to find the best treatment approach for her or his situation and lupus symptoms. Approaches might include:
If you’re diagnosed with lupus, your health care provider can help you understand the disease and your options for the best treatment for your situation.