Lupus Can Affect Anyone — Women are Especially Vulnerable

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.

What are The Signs of Lupus?

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:

  • Red rashes, often on the face. The rash can look like a sunburn on the face with patches that resemble a butterfly wing under each eye. Rashes from exposure to sun
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Fatigue

There is no one test to diagnose lupus. It may take months or more to make the correct diagnosis.

How is Lupus Diagnosed?

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.

How is Lupus Treated?

The treatment will depend on the symptoms the patient has.

  • Aspirin or a similar medicine might be used to treat swollen joints and fever.
  • Creams may be prescribed for a rash.

Other strong medications such as antimalaria drugs, corticosteroids, chemotherapy drugs and biologic drugs might be prescribed for more serious symptoms.

How Do Patients Cope with Lupus?

Each patient will need to find the best treatment approach for her or his situation and lupus symptoms. Approaches might include:

  • Seeing a rheumatologist, psychologist, occupational therapist, dermatologist or dietitian for guidance in alleviating the specific symptoms.
  • Managing work and family life to better cope with fatigue while staying involved in social activities.
  • Joining support groups to benefit from the input of others with similar experiences.
  • Participating in exercises that help strengthen muscles, maintain normal joint movement and improve cardiovascular fitness along with controlling weight. Check with your health care professional before beginning an exercise plan.
  • Go on an anti-inflammatory diet

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.

Meet the Author

Salman Waheeduddin, MD is a Rheumatologist at Aurora Medical Group in Franklin, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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