Types of Lupus- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an auto-immune disease; the immune system functions in part by developing antibodies to fight foreign bodies of disease. In the Lupus patient, there is an abnormality in their antibodies. They incorrectly attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs, causing inflammation and damage.Lupus can attack the skin, heart, kidneys, brain, blood vessels, joints, and the nervous system. When Lupus only affects the skin, it is considered Discoid Lupus. Any internal cells, tissues, and organs affected comprise Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
Who is affected by SLE?
Most typically found in women between ages 20-45, Lupus can affect all age ranges and both genders. It also seems to be more common among people of African, Japanese, and Chinese descent.
The exact cause of Lupus is yet unknown. It is believed that genetics, UV light, viruses, and drugs are heavy hitting factors. It has been found that relatives with auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are common among lupus patients (1). Some in the medical community believe that viruses or exposure to sunlight can aggravate the symptoms of Lupus. Women also report worsening of their Lupus symptoms during their pre-menstrual period. Scientists feel there may be a hormonal connection to Lupus and are investigating accordingly. Additionally, research shows that a malfunctioning enzyme crucial to cell disposal contributes to SLE.
Symptoms of SLE
Depending on the organs and tissues attacked, Lupus patients can experience a wide variety of symptoms. Fatigue, fever, rash, arthritis, muscle aches, and photosensitivity are commonly described. The "Butterfly Rash", a characteristic of Lupus that describes a rash over the bridge of the nose and across the face, is found in at least half of SLE patients. The ability for blood to clot can be weakened, making bleeding and infection a serious threat. It is very common for SLE patients to develop arthritis over the course of their illness.
Inflammation of Various Organs and Tissues
SLE can result in the inflammation and damage of muscles, blood vessels, lungs, kidneys, and brain. This can cause a multitude of serious conditions including:
- Myotosis- muscle pain and weakness
- Vasculitis- blocked circulation and damage to tissue
- Pleuritis- chest pain exacerbated by coughing and deep breathing
- Kidney failure, and secretion of kidney fluids into the body
- Cerebritis- inflammation of the brain that can lead to psychosis, coma, and seizures
- Damage to the nervous system involving numbness, tingling, or weakness in body parts
SLE and Pregnancy
Although considered a high-risk pregnancy, many women with SLE are able to deliver their babies successfully. The rate of miscarriage is about 10% higher than normal pregnancies, so pregnancy planning and counseling is important. Theoretically, a female SLE patient will be in remission and not taking any medications at least six months prior to getting pregnant. Good nutrition and care are essential during the pregnancy as symptoms of SLE may return.
Living with Lupus
Although Systemic Lupus Erythematosus has disastrous symptoms and no cure, people with SLE can still maintain a high quality of life. It is important to understand and recognize the symptoms of the disease, and to seek treatment before symptoms are out of control. Good communication with your doctor is vital. For more information, continue reading Types of Lupus- Drug Induced Lupus 3-3.