Lupus is a chronic and complex autoimmune disease that can affect almost any part of the body, causing widespread inflammation and sometimes tissue and organ damage. While the signs of lupus vary, the most affected areas include joints, skin, the brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels. Currently, scientists do not know what causes lupus, although research indicates that genetics, environmental factors, viruses, and infections all may play a role. Although anyone can get lupus, the disease most often affects women.
Common Symptoms of Lupus
Because lupus can affect so many different areas of the body, there is a wide range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. For instance, one person might experience fever and a rash while another might suffer from swollen knees and feel tired all the time. In general, lupus symptoms come and go in flare-ups and remissions. Over time, new symptoms can develop while other symptoms might subside. The following are some of the more commonly reported symptoms of lupus:
- Muscle and joint pain with stiffness, with or without swelling
- Rashes, especially a butterfly-shaped rash across the face
- Chest pain
- Hair loss
- Sun or light sensitivity
- Kidney problems
- Mouth sores
- Prolonged or extreme fatigue
- Memory problems
- Blood clots in the legs or the lungs
- Eye issues such as dry eyes, eye inflammation, or eyelid rashes
Given the far-reaching nature of the disease, lupus is difficult to diagnose. Doctors use a combination of a complete medical history, a physical exam, blood tests, and skin and kidney biopsies if those areas are affected. Rheumatologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons, so they have a lot of experience in working with patients who have lupus.
Treatment Options for Lupus
Although there is no cure for lupus, treatment can help improve symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and address other health problems that lupus might cause, like organ damage or blood clots, providing a better quality of life. Depending on how lupus affects the individual, different types of medication may be used.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help reduce mild pain as well as swelling of the muscles and joints
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone may reduce swelling, tenderness, and pain; high doses can also calm the entire immune system
- Antimalarial drugs can help treat joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, and lung inflammation
- BLyS-specific inhibitors limit the amount of abnormal B cells found in people with lupus
- Immunosuppressive agents/chemotherapy can be used in severe cases of lupus when major organs are affected and other treatment is ineffective
- Other medication, such as blood pressure medication or blood thinners, is sometimes necessary to treat other diseases linked to lupus
Are You Having Signs of Lupus? We can help.
At Advanced Rheumatology of Houston, we have a team of dedicated, compassionate specialists ready to discuss your lupus symptoms and treatment options. We understand that lupus affects each patient differently, and we will work with you to determine the most appropriate treatment and health management plan. Working together, we want to help provide the best quality of life possible for you. Please call us today at (281) 766-7886 to schedule an appointment.