Lupus is an autoimmune disease which causes your body’s immune system to attack your healthy tissues and organs. This typically results in inflammations in multiple areas such as the skin, joints, heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain.
Lupus is often difficult to confirm as the symptoms mirror other conditions. In certain cases of lupus, a butterfly-shaped rash emerges on the face, extending from the nose to both the cheeks. This, however, is not a common symptom for all cases of this autoimmune condition.
No two cases of lupus are alike. The symptoms can occur suddenly or can develop gradually. They can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The main symptoms of lupus will depend on the body parts that are affected. The most well-known symptoms are-
- Fatigue & recurrent fever
- Butterfly shaped rash on the face
- Pain, stiffness & swelling in the joints
- Rashes or skin lesions that can get worse with sun exposure
- Fingers and toes turning blue or white when exposed to cold or when feeling stressed (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Dry eyes
- Chest pain & shortness of breath
- Frequent headaches, memory loss & confusion
The exact causes of lupus have not been pinpointed but it is understood that lupus happens due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Those who are genetically predisposed to developing this condition will get affected with lupus upon exposure to-
- Sunlight- Getting exposed to sunlight can cause lupus internally or trigger rashes associated with it.
- Infection- Contracting an infection can either cause a relapse into lupus or trigger it in people who are susceptible.
- Medication- Lupus can be triggered by certain types of medicines such as BP medication, blood thinners, anti-seizure medication and antibiotics. Those facing drug-induced lupus usually get better when they stop taking the medicine triggering it.
There are certain factors that increase the risk of lupus. Gender: Women are more likely to develop this condition | Age: it is mostly diagnosed between the age group of 15 to 45 | Ethnicity: mostly common in African-Americans, Hispanics & Asians.
The treatment for lupus depends on the exact symptoms shown and it is usually preceded by a thorough discussion with the doctor which clarifies the benefits and risks of the treatment. As the symptoms improve, doctors can choose to alter the medication or change to dosage.
Some of the most common medications used for treatment are-
- NSAIDs- These over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used to combat the inflammations caused by lupus. These are not free of side-effects and must only be used under the advice of the doctor.
- Immunosuppressants- In serious cases, these medications are prescribed which dampen the effect of the immune system. Care should be taken to remain safe and isolated as these medications increase the chances of infection.
- Corticosteroids- These are used to fight the inflammations and are often used when vital organs like the kidneys and brain are affected. Due to the side-effects it is often not used as a long-term form of therapy.
- Hydroxychloroquine- This anti-malarial drug is often used to prevent the flare-up of lupus. Routine check-ups are usually done when taking this medicine.
Conditions like lupus are something that can make life tougher on a daily basis. This is why support from friends and family is also extremely important apart from medical care. Added to this, joining support groups or connecting with a network of similar patients can provide information about managing life with this condition and better coping mechanisms.
The isolation due to the current pandemic can be hard and all of us need to ensure that we provide adequate support to those living with such chronic conditions. If you know someone who is facing relapse or has developed this condition during the lockdown, don’t hesitate to connect online instantly with a doctor. Let’s be connected by our strength and support even though we may be separated by distance. India Khayal Rakhna