What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune syndrome, meaning it’s caused when the immune system goes haywire and starts attacking different tissues of the victim’s own body. As a result, the tissues get afflicted by chronic inflammation.
Lupus, as a matter of fact, represents a variety of immune disorders that show similar symptoms and lab features, but SLE happens to be the most common out of all. On a lot of occasions, when people talk about lupus, they are actually referring to SLE.
Because the tissues are attacked in a random manner, the disorder can damage any part of the body. The most common organs that get affected are kidneys, lungs, heart, skin and the nervous system.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of lupus are varied, as different types of the disease exist. Hence, different people show different symptoms. Some of the most general symptoms include-
- Feeling of a constant low-grade fever;
- A significant reduction in appetite;
- A feeling of nausea;
- Muscle pain;
- Debilitating pain in the joints;
- Extreme fatigue; and
- Hair loss.
More specific symptoms include changes in the skin’s appearance, mouth and nose ulcers, sensitivity to light, and reduced blood flow to extremities of the body like toes and fingers, on exposure to cold.
How is lupus diagnosed?
There is no one-spot diagnostic solution for lupus. And since it can affect different parts of the body in different people, diagnosis becomes an uphill task in many cases.
If your doctor suspects, you could be suffering from lupus, she would first examine you, inquire about your symptoms by asking you questions linked to your present and past health conditions. And then would reach a conclusion by running special urine and blood tests on you.
If I am suffering from it, how concerned should I be?
Lupus inflammation, as already discussed, can cause serious damage to organs such as-
- Kidneys- One of the most common reasons why patients with lupus die are kidney failure. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, itching, chest pain and swelling of legs.
- The central nervous system including the brain- Symptoms include hallucinations, headaches, changes in behaviour, dizzy spells, strokes, seizures or memory loss.
- Blood vessels and blood-Excessive bleeding or unusual blood clotting are the most common symptoms. The patient may also experience blood disorders like anaemia and blood vessel dysfunctionalities like vasculitis.
- Lungs-Pneumonia and pleurisy are the most commonly experienced symptoms.
- Heart-Anything starting from heart muscles and membrane to your arteries can become inflamed. And the result could be massive heart attacks.
Other complications may also arise which include increased risks of-
- Avascular necrosis- death of bone tissues;
- Pregnancy related complexities; and
- In some cases, cancer.
Can I manage lupus?
Of course, you can! Provided your symptoms are not advanced. By following the few dos and don’ts dished out below, you will be able to control any flare up to a considerable extent-
- Stress is your foe- stay stress-free!
- Stay away from direct sun. If you ever have to go out, protect yourself with sunscreen, sun glasses and protective clothing.
- Engage in regular mild exercising to avoid stiffness in joints.
- Quit smoking, if you haven’t already.
- Don’t allow a flare up. If you feel your symptoms are getting worse, see your doctor immediately. Being watchful is the key!
A few facts about systemic lupus erythematosus that might help you understand the disease better-
- SLE is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own tissues thinking them to be foreign harmful bodies.
- It is identified by the existence of strange unrecognized antibodies in the blood stream.
- There are no obvious causes of this disease, but the medical fraternity considers factors like UV rays, viruses, genes or certain drugs to be the most probable causes.
Attending to any suspected symptoms early on is the best way to prevent advancement of this disease. With proper care and attention, though, things don’t and won’t worsen. Take care and stay healthy!