Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues instead of just foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Although it is not fully understood what causes autoimmune diseases like lupus, it is thought that there are two components: genetic predisposition and environment.
- Lupus is not hereditary in that the disease itself is passed from parent to child. It is hereditary in that a predisposition to developing the disease is passed down from parent to child. It is important to recognize this distinction. Not everyone with a parent who has lupus will develop the disease itself, and children can develop the disease even if neither of their parents has lupus.
- Only about 5% of children of people with lupus will develop the disease themselves.
If the genetic predisposition exists in a person, then lupus can be triggered. It is thought that environmental causes like disease, drugs, or viruses can trigger lupus.
Environmental Lupus Triggers:
- Infections, especially Epstein-Barr virus
- Sulfa and penicillin antibiotics
- Ultraviolet light
- High levels of stress
- Medication, especially certain ones for cardiac arrhythmia and hypertension (high blood pressure)
Who is at risk for Lupus?
There are some factors that can increase your chances of developing lupus.
- Females account for 90% of lupus cases
- Females between the ages of 15 and 45 account for 80% of diagnoses of lupus
- People of African, Asian, or native American heritage tend to be more likely to develop the disease
- 1 in 1,000 Caucasian women develop lupus
- 1 in 250 African American women develop lupus
What are the symptoms of lupus?
Lupus is a very difficult disease to diagnose. This is because its symptoms are tricky. Lupus has many symptoms, and they do not all occur in every patient. Often, symptoms associated with lupus can be mistaken for other diseases, or the normal aches and pains of aging. Additionally, there are four different varieties of lupus: systemic (meaning throughout the body), cutaneous (affecting the skin only), drug-induced, and neonatal.
Common lupus symptoms:
- Pain and inflammation of the joints and muscles
- Rash on the face, in a butterfly shape over the cheeks and nose
- Kidney diseases
- Mouth lesions
- Hair loss
- Blood clotting problems
If you have more than one or two of these symptoms you might have lupus. You should see your health practitioner immediately.
- There are many treatments available for lupus.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, and Aleve are commonly used), antimalarials, and corticosteroids are all used to treat lupus.
- Additionally, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle will help to alleviate many lupus symptoms.
- Fish oil supplements have shown promising results for lupus sufferers as well.
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