What is Lupus?
Lupus is a disease in which our body attacks itself, especially our skin, joints, kidneys,
heart, lungs and blood vessels. It is called an autoimmune disease because antibodies
are formed by our body to harm organs in our own body. It is also a chronic disease
which means that the symptoms last for more than six weeks and sometimes for several
Are there different types of lupus?
Yes, systemic lupus erythematosus affects different parts of the body; discoid lupus
erythematosus causes a persistent skin rash; drug-induced lupus is caused by certain
drugs; neonatal lupus typically occurs in newborns; and subacute cutaneous lupus
erythematosus causes sores on the part of the skin exposed to the sun.
What causes Lupus?
Despite advances, we do not yet know the cause of lupus. Studies indicate that genes
and the environment together contribute to the development of the disease. Some of the
environmental stimuli initiating lupus are:
Medicines like certain antibiotics, blood pressure medicines and anti-seizure
Exposure to sunlight can trigger skin rash in genetically susceptible people.
Infections can trigger lupus or its relapse.
Are there any risk factors for Lupus?
Lupus typically occurs in women between the 15 to 40 year age group and is more
common amongst African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. So gender, age and race are
the main risk factors.
Is Lupus contagious?
No, it is not contagious and you cannot “catch lupus” from anyone.
What are the symptoms?
Your symptoms will depend on which organ in your body is affected by lupus and
whether it develops suddenly or slowly. A majority of people with lupus have mild
symptoms which flare up off and on. Common symptoms include:
- A butterfly shaped rash on your cheeks
- Fever and increasing fatigue
- Muscle pain
- Pain or swelling in the joints with stiffness
- Skin lesions which become worse when exposed to sunlight
- Pale or blue fingers and toes, especially on exposure to cold or during periods of
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in the chest
- Dryness of the eyes
- Mouth ulcers
- Swelling of the glands
- Confusion, loss of memory and headaches
How is it diagnosed?
It is difficult to diagnose lupus as it resembles several diseases, which can sometimes
delay the diagnosis for several years. Your doctor depends on an accurate report from you about your health history along with what is found after examining you to reach a diagnosis. In addition, a blood
test to detect antibodies for lupus (ANA) is obtained and if positive, then more specific
tests for lupus will be ordered. A biopsy from the skin or the kidney may be required to
confirm the presence of the condition. Other tests may also be required depending on
the organ suspected to be affected.
Are there any complications associated with Lupus?
Lupus related inflammation can affect other organs in your body, such as:
- Kidneys: severe kidney damage, and even death due to kidney failure.
- Lungs: inflammation in the lungs can lead to pleurisy and even pneumonia.
- Heart: inflammation of your heart muscle and lining of the heart results in a
higher risk of heart attacks.
- Miscarriages: Women with lupus can have repeated abortions due to complications, high blood
pressure during pregnancy, and also premature delivery.
What is the treatment for Lupus?
Your doctor will prescribe medications depending upon the severity of your symptoms,
and the organs affected by lupus. Common prescriptions include NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs), corticosteroids, immunosuppressant and anti-malarial drugs like