Lupus & Your Immune System
Lupus may be more widespread than you realize. Lupus is more prevalent that cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis. Women are more than nine times susceptible to lupus than men. African American women top the list. Women who develop lupus have an increased risk for heart disease. The average age of a lupus sufferer varies between 15-45 years. More than one million Americans have lupus. More than 16,000 Americans develop lupus every year. Systemic lupus erythematosus statistics: Thirty percent of lupus sufferers will develop heart and/or lung problems. Fifty percent of lupus sufferers will develop neuropsychiatric disorders (depression, headaches, memory loss, and seizures). Lupus deaths are five times more in women than men. Lupus deaths are three times more in African Americans than Caucausin Americans.
Lupus and your immune system
An unpredictable and chronic inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease, lupus attacks the body's immune system. Designed to fight infections and foreign substances, our immune system is complex. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, is not caused by what a person does or does not do. Lupus is not contagious, either. Lupus produces abnormal proteins or antibodies at a rapid growth rate to target the body itself instead of foreign substances. Simply put, the immune system becomes over-active when lupus is present. This increases abnormal antibodies and these antibodies attack the body's organs and tissues. These antibodies and inflammation aren't confined to any particular part of the body; they can invade and affect many different areas of the body. With this weakened immune system, lupus can further cause disease of the heart, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and the skin. With lupus, the immune system is unable to tell the difference between the body's cells and foreign agents. Our body's first line of defense is our immune system. When a germ enters the body, cells and organs recognize it and respond accordingly. When the immune system can't do what it's supposed to do, serious implications result.
When the immune system incorrectly responds, fatigue, joint pain, kidney failure, and lupus can all result.
What goes wrong as a result of lupus?
There are five things that happen that creates the onset of lupus. They include:
- Apoptosis. This is cell death. Cells contain directions to kill themselves when certain things happen. This cell death happens with precision and nothing is unnecessarily damaged.
- Autoantibodies. Though not completely understood, these autoantibodies actually destroy the immune system.
- Complement system. Long-term activity from the complement system actually damages the membrane attack, promotes blood clots and adhesion and activation. This releases cytokines and increases inflammatory.
- Cytokines. Cytokines send messages from cell to cell. If there is an imbalance in these messages, it will promote the progression of lupus.
- T-cells. Abnormal t-cells have been discovered in lupus.
What treatments are available?
There are current studies designed for lupus to suppress the immune system and alleviate inflammation. The goal is to compare inflammation and autoimmunity to see what is the link without completely suppressing the entire immune system. Still in the testing phase, there are no conclusive findings available at this time.