Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disorder that can make life difficult for those who suffer from it. It occurs when the body’s natural immune system attacks its own healthy tissues, causing inflammation and a diverse range of symptoms. The severity of the disease can vary at times between mild and severe. The inflammation caused by lupus can often result in permanent organ damage. This can occur anywhere in the body and, in some cases, it can happen quite quickly. For this reason, lupus can be deadly and can greatly shorten life expectancy in those who have it. While there are different types of lupus, the most common type is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). When most people refer to lupus, they are referring to this type. It’s important to be aware of the following causes and symptoms of SLE so that it can be diagnosed and managed properly.
No definitive cause has been identified for lupus yet, but most experts believe that genetic and environmental factors can play a role. The genetic factors are currently believed to be a combination of different genes shared between family members that may lead to lupus, rather than just a single gene. This is based on the fact that lupus is frequently seen in twins where both siblings have it.
Different environmental factors may either cause or trigger lupus in some people. Vitamin D deficiency has been found in a large percentage of lupus patients. Other possible triggers believed to play a role in lupus include sunlight/ultraviolet radiation (UVR), smoking, and some types of medications.
The most prominent theory supported by most experts is that lupus is often caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Based on this theory, someone with faulty genes may then be more likely to develop lupus if they then choose to smoke or suntan without protecting their skin.
The first signs of lupus can vary from person to person, but skin, blood, and joint symptoms are often the most obvious ones in the early stages. A butterfly-shaped rash on the face is sometimes the first visible symptom of lupus. Fever, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, chest pain, and eye problems are common throughout the course of the disease. People with lupus often experience flare ups of symptoms and then periods of remission where they feel better.
Various heart problems and inflammation in the pleural tissue of the body can occur. The pleural tissue is found around the lungs and in the chest. Problems within the heart or pleural tissue contribute to a large number of deaths attributed to lupus.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is an extremely common symptom of lupus. Some lupus sufferers experience strokes, which are also believed to be linked to hypertension in lupus. In addition to this, cognitive problems such as having trouble concentrating and memory loss have also been linked to hypertension caused by lupus.
Individuals with lupus can do many things to try to reduce the frequency and severity of flare ups. Diet can be very important because antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins can all elicit a protective effect against inflammation. Reducing unhealthy fats in the diet, avoiding overexposure to sunlight, and taking steps to reduce stress can all help as well.
In severe cases, medications to reduce inflammation can be introduced. The downside is that recent years and evidence have shown that if they are taken over a long period of time, it can end up increasing the inflammation that a patient sees, rather than preventing it. Rather than being a “go-to” option, doctors now tend to use them far more sparingly and only when really necessary.
There are actually many different types of medications that can be used. All of them may try to help with inflammation or to calm the immune system down.
Anyone who suspects they may have symptoms consistent with lupus should speak to a doctor. With modern testing, health experts can diagnose lupus quickly. It’s important to start management or treatment early to reduce the inflammation that often leads to irreparable organ damage. By taking consistent daily management steps and consulting with doctors when symptoms do arise, most patients with lupus can continue to live full and healthy lives.