What is Lupus?
According to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) lupus is an autoimmune disease that presents in a variety of manners. There are four forms of lupus systemic, cutaneous, drug-induced and neonatal. In autoimmune diseases, the antibodies in the immune system, which are designed to fight off invading bacteria, viruses and diseases become confused about which cells are good and which cells are bad. Instead of attacking foreign invaders, the antibodies begin to aggressively attack healthy tissue, which often leads to a variety of secondary health-related conditions. Because lupus is an inflammatory disease, it can affect any portion of the body from the skin to the joints to the organs. Lupus is chronic, often with flare-ups that can last six-weeks or longer. Flares can be mildly painful, extremely painful or life-threatening.
Who Develops Lupus?
While the exact cause of lupus is currently unknown, approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer from one form of lupus or another. And though men can also develop the disease, approximately 90 percentof the people who develop lupus are women. Through men and women of any ethic background can develop lupus, the majority of female patients are African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Women of color are two to three times more likely to develop some form of lupus than Caucasian women. Most people will develop lupus between the ages of 15 and 44, but children can also develop the disease as young as 11 years of age (or in rare cases, younger). Statistics point toward several factors hereditary, environmental and hormonal that may lead to a diagnosis of lupus. Twenty percent of the people suffering from lupus also have a sibling or parent with the disease and approximately five percent of the offspring of a lupus patient will also develop the disease. The hormone estrogen plays a vital role in the development of lupus, which explains why so many more women develop the disease, and also why a flare may occur during pregnancy. Men with lupus may have lower androgen and/or testosterone levels, but though these numbers are lower they are not low enough to interfere with fertility, potency or sexual activity. Environmental issues such as drug interaction also can come into play. Drug-induced lupus is often more apparent in men simply because some of the types of drugs used for high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms can cause drug-induced lupus and because these health problems are more prevalent in men.
Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus can affect every organ in the body, including the skin and joints. In some cases, lupus can be life-threatening. Lupus is usually diagnosed by blood test, a rash, joint pain and fever. But because it can present in a variety of manners it can be difficult to diagnose especially in children, which presents a problem. Lupus is a chronic disease that can cause irreparable damage without diagnosis and medication, so it's imperative that you document all symptoms and let your physician know exactly what's going on. The sooner one is diagnosed, the sooner the correct medication can be used. Getting the correct medication in a timely manner will help prevent long-term or permanent damage.