What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes pain and inflammation throughout the body. The immune system typically fights infections in the body, but lupus causes it to attack healthy tissues instead, which leads to pain and inflammation. While the cause of lupus is currently unknown, it is thought to be triggered by environmental and genetic factors. It is not contagious, though it can be hereditary, and it can affect anyone, though it is diagnosed most frequently in women.
Many areas of the body are affected by lupus, including skin, joints, and organs such as the kidneys or heart. Symptoms can include swelling, pain, fatigue, joint pain, and a butterfly-shaped rash across the face. Symptoms tend to come in waves, so you may not experience any symptoms at times, while at other times, a flare-up can cause more severe pain.
Diagnosis & Treatment
While people can be diagnosed with lupus at any age, most diagnoses occur between 15-45 years old. Symptoms also tend to present milder at first but can worsen with time.
At this time, lupus is a lifelong disease with no known cure. However, while you may not be able to cure lupus, you can manage it as you get older with a proper treatment plan, including medication and lifestyle changes such as reducing stress, eating a healthy, antioxidant-rich diet, exercising regularly, and limiting sun exposure, which can be a trigger.
Immuno-suppressing drugs are an approved treatment that work by suppressing antibodies within the body, so they don’t trigger an immune system reaction. This can put lupus into a state of remission or non-activity, which helps avoid more severe symptoms that can cause organ damage. Other options involve using steroid creams for milder skin symptoms or chemotherapy drugs or monoclonal antibodies for more severe symptoms that do not respond to other treatments.
Progression Over Time
While lupus does not have a cure, a treatment plan can manage the more severe symptoms that can lead to more serious consequences such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, osteoarthritis, kidney damage, or cardiovascular disease if left untreated. In addition, the effects of unchecked symptoms can accumulate over time, resulting in patients needing joint replacement or other treatments as they get older.
However, the good news is that with treatment, people with lupus can reduce this risk considerably and have an average or near-average life expectancy thanks to advances in treatment and diagnosis. Studies also show that as people age, symptom tends to improve and can even head into remission for five or more years for some people.
If you have concerns about how your lupus is progressing, reach out to your doctor. Lupus is an ever-evolving disease, so adjustments may need to be made to ensure that your symptoms are managed. There are several ways to help control lupus symptoms, and our expert team at Advanced Rheumatology of Houston can help you develop a care plan for your unique circumstances. Please call (281) 766-7886 or click here to book an appointment.