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Lupus is an autoimmune disease that is chronic in nature. A disease being autoimmune basically means that the immune system of the body fails to properly distinguish between foreign agents and its own healthy tissues. This makes the disease extremely difficult to treat even though most of the symptoms can be managed quite easily with the help of proper medication.

What Causes Lupus?

The answer to this is yet unknown, although a few risk factors were identified. These risk factors include a genetic predilection towards developing the disease, familial history, exposure to certain drugs, infections and an excessive amount of sunlight.

None of these causes are very specific since that knowledge yet eludes us.

Types Of Lupus

There are two main types of Lupus.

  • Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

A few other types like neonatal lupus and drug-induced lupus are seen much less commonly.

The signs and symptoms of this disease are basically a result of inflammation. This makes the disease quite hard to diagnose since most of the symptoms are found in a large number of other diseases as well.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Pain in the joints accompanied by swelling and stiffness
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Skin lesions (round disk-shaped or in a characteristic butterfly pattern across the face)
  • Memory loss
  • Frequent headaches
  • Rashes all over the body
  • Photosensitivity

The most distinguishable symptom among all of these is the butterfly shaped rash, however that is not seen in all patients suffering from Lupus. A red flag should go up if there is an unexplained rash that is refusing to heal, as well as a worsening of the rash on exposure to the sun.

The systemic form of the disease can also affect the lungs, heart, kidneys and other vital organs of the body.

Diagnostic Tests

There is no single test that can confirm the presence of lupus in the body and so the doctors usually rely on a series of tests to help them reach a diagnosis. These tests have to viewed along with the presence or absence of clinical signs and symptoms to be more useful.

Your doctor may order a few blood tests that measure complete blood count and ESR along with a urine analysis.  An antinuclear antibody test may also be ordered.

Treatment

As mentioned earlier, there is no "cure" for lupus, however the symptoms can be quite easily managed. A combination of non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants and steroids are usually prescribed to the patient.

Common Myths

There are some common misconceptions about Lupus that should be cleared. The disease is absolutely non-contagious and cannot be transmitted to another person through contact (sexual or non sexual). Lupus is also not cancerous in origin or behavior. The use of some immunosuppressants may be common with those used in the treatment of cancer, however this is does not indicate any commonality between the two diseases.

Most people who suffer from Lupus live a full unencumbered life dealing with instances of increased severity. It can be life threatening in a small percentage of the affected population.

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