Lupus Symptoms and Causes
Lupus is an autoimmune condition where your immune system creates antibodies that attack healthy cells in your body—instead of attacking viruses, bacteria, and other infections. Inflammation from lupus wears away connective tissues in your joints, skin, organs, and other body systems. These inflammation flare-ups usually last for a few weeks, then fade or disappear for extended periods of time.
Adult women account for more than 90% of lupus cases, but men and children can get it, too.1 If another member of your family has lupus your chances of developing it are 5% or greater. 1
Doctors classify lupus into four different categories:
- Systemic lupus affects many different body systems. It is the most common form of lupus.
- Drug-induced lupus is a side-effect of the heart drugs hydralazine and procainamide, the tuberculosis medication isoniazid, and a few other medications. In most cases, the lupus disappears about six months after discontinuing the medication.
- Cutaneous lupus occurs when the lupus is only active in the skin. Sufferers will have rashes and sores, and they may lose some hair.
- Neonatal lupus occurs in babies who have received the immune system antibodies from their mothers. It is uncommon, and most babies born to mothers with lupus never develop the disease.
Lupus Symptoms and Effects
Lupus can affect almost any tissue, organ, or body system, so there are many possible symptoms.
The most common symptoms are fatigue, weight loss, and two or more painful joints, with the pain lasting for many weeks.
The most visible symptom of lupus is usually a rash that extends from cheek to cheek over the bridge of your nose. You may notice rashes on skin exposed to sunlight, and some of your hair may fall out. In some cases, lupus sufferers lose all of their hair.
The vast majority of lupus sufferers have pain, soreness, or inflammation in their joints. It may deform one or more of your joints.
Lupus also attacks blood cells, and you are likely to experience anemia and clotting disorders. Therefore, your risks of experiencing a stroke or developing blood clots are much higher with lupus.
Kidneys often suffer from the effects of lupus, and about half of lupus patients develop some kidney damage. Only a minority of lupus patients experience kidney failure, however.
If you live with lupus, you need to be patient with symptoms that affect your mind. Lupus is likely to affect your hand-eye coordination and cause mild mental impairments. Some patients have seizures, and some experience short- or long-term paralysis.
Because lupus symptoms affects the whole nervous system—not just the brain—you may experience nerve damage in your arms and legs.
Medical experts do not what causes your immune system to unleash antibodies on your healthy cells. However, they know there is always an environmental cause that triggers the disease in individuals. Lupus tends to run in families, so you can be predisposed to develop it, but you also need to experience that necessary trigger.
Environmental triggers include:
- ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or lights
- drugs that increase your light sensitivity
- emotional or physical stress
Lupus inflammation can be a painful and challenging disease with many symptoms. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully, and take your medications appropriately. You will also be happier if you learn to recognize when your lupus is acting up, so you can get in touch with your doctor and treat flare-ups early.