Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
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What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?
The autoimmune disease of systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, occurs when the immune system attacks itself. African American women are the most at risk of developing the disease, which causes fatigue, joint pain, rashes, sores and headaches.
Lupus is a chronic condition that most often affects women between the ages of 15 and 45. Lupus can cause additional health problems such as high blood pressure, kidney inflammation, anemia or Sjogren’s syndrome. The cause of the disease is unknown.
Symptoms and causes
In addition to fatigue, rashes, sores, headaches and joint pain, many patients experience fever, anemia, hair loss, shortness of breath, chest pain, ulcers and other symptoms. The most well-known symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash on the face; however, not all patients experience this symptom.
Symptoms of lupus range from mild to severe. Most patients have periods of lesser symptoms and periods of flare-ups; treatment focuses on managing these symptoms. Internal organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain, may be affected by lupus.
There is no cure for lupus, but its symptoms can be managed. Physicians may utilize both blood and urine tests to assist in diagnosis. X-rays, echocardiograms and biopsies may also be used. Many symptoms of lupus can be managed effectively with medication.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed for the pain associated with lupus, and corticosteroids may reduce inflammation. Antimalarial drugs have proven effective as have immunosuppressants and biologics. Patients are advised to protect themselves from UV rays, increase their intake of calcium and vitamin D, exercise and maintain a healthy diet.