All you need to know about lupus
1. What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease immune system produces autoantibodies that attack and damage different tissues throughout the body, causing inflammation and pain.
Lupus is often referred to as an invisible disease as people with the condition do not typically ‘look ill’ – this can be very distressing for sufferers and lead to depression and anxiety.
2. Common symptoms of lupus
People with lupus may have symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including fatigue, joint problems, a facial rash, sensitivity to light, headache, mood swings, mouth ulcers.
Some patients have one specific organ that is affected such as the kidneys or skin.
3. What is a day to day life like for someone with lupus?
People with lupus often don’t know how they will feel day to day, even though medication can help alleviate many symptoms. Lupus typically has periods of ‘flare’ (lots of symptoms present) and ‘remission’ (no/few symptoms present).
4. What causes lupus?
Lupus cannot be ‘caught’. Although the exact cause of lupus is not fully understood, a strong body of research suggests a combination of genetics, environment and hormones play a part. Lupus is more common in women of child-bearing age.
5. Why is Lupus difficult to diagnose?
Lupus can present with a multitude of symptoms that can often be confused with other conditions. It can take several years for patients to be referred to a specialist (rheumatologist) and receive a diagnosis. It is thought that approximately 5 million people worldwide have lupus. An official diagnosis will be confirmed after blood tests and scans.
6. How is lupus treated?
Treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and biologics; each patient will have a treatment regimen tailored to their specific symptoms. Lifestyle changes can also help such as eating a healthy diet, stopping smoking, resting, wearing sunscreen and managing stress. Although there is no ‘cure’ for lupus, most people can lead a long and full life while on long-term medication (survival rates are high). The earlier the diagnosis, the better the treatment outcomes.
7. How best to support someone with lupus?
There are many online resources to help advise on how to support a partner or friend who has been diagnosed with lupus. It is important to look after your own wellbeing as well as providing physical and emotional support to someone with lupus.
Sources: Lupus.org, prevention.com,lupusuk.org.uk,NHS