The Voice of Lupus Foundation

A Pillar of Strength

What is Lupus?

Lupus is neither infectious nor contagious. There is no cure.

Systemic Lupus Erythematous is a chronic auto-immune disease; a type of self-allergy whereby the patient’s immune system creates antibodies which, instead of protecting the body from bacteria and viruses, attack the person’s own body tissues. This causes symptoms of extreme fatigue, joint pain, muscle aches, anemia, general malaise, and can result in the destruction of vital organs. It is a disease with many manifestations and each person’s profile or list of symptoms is different. Lupus can mimic other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, making it difficult to diagnose.

Currently there is no single test that can definitely say whether a person has lupus or not. A diagnosis can only be achieved through a comprehensive examination and consideration of symptoms, along with their history.

People diagnosed with lupus normally remain under medical care with continuing medication. Many symptoms have less impact as a result, but side effects can often occur. Lupus can adversely influence the lives of those who suffer the illness, their families and friends.

SLE – Systemic Lupus Erythematosus…hard to say – harder to live with…

Who gets lupus?

Lupus is most common in young females (teens, 20s and 30s). Men and children can also have lupus. The ratio of females to males is nine to one.

Is it a world-wide disease?

Yes, lupus affects people from all countries in the world. There are certain countries in which the disease appears to be more prevalent, for instance the Caribbean, the Far East and China.

What is the outlook?

Most patients are faced with a lifelong battle with the disease. Some patients have actually gone into remission for years, while most deal with the symptoms for the rest of their lives. Lupus is a terminal disease; a major flare of the disease could attack a vital organ increasing the chance of death.

What are the features of lupus?

Butterfly rash

hair loss

Raynaud’s phenomenon

Fatigue, flu-like illness, skin rashes (including the classical ‘butterfly’ rash on the cheeks and nose), hair-loss and, more importantly, internal organ involvement including pleurisy, kidney disease and brain inflammation. Some patients with lupus have a clotting tendency and this can present, for instance, as a thrombosis in the vein or an artery.

How is it treated?

Early in the disease, usually in the more aggressive stages, it is treated with corticosteroids and/or anti-malarials. Where there is kidney or brain disease, other drugs such as immunosuppressives are used. In those patients with a clotting tendency, anticoagulants are used. Management is usually aimed at reducing medication to the lowest dose possible and ultimately, to weaning the patient off stronger medication.

How can I help myself?

Some of the factors which exacerbate lupus are stress, excessive sunlight and occasionally, drug allergies (especially to the antibiotic Septrin). Patients who are sensitive to ultraviolet light and develop skin rashes can prevent lupus flares by using protection against excess UV exposure.

There are no diets which have been found especially helpful in lupus, though it must be said that some patients do appear to be allergic to certain foods and the only way to find this out is by trial and error.

Lupus can be triggered:

Heart problems

Digestive issues

Kidney problems

  • at puberty
  • after childbirth
  • through sunlight
  • as a result of trauma
  • after viral infection
  • during the menopause
  • after a prolonged course of medication

The symptoms may include:

Lupus may cause anemia

Joint pain can occur

Nervous system issues

  • extreme fatigue
  • joint/muscle pain
  • eye problems
  • depression
  • mouth ulcers
  • facial or other rashes
  • miscarriage
  • hair loss
  • Raynaud’s Phenomena
  • anemia
  • fever
  • photosensitivity
  • possible involvement of the kidneys, heart, lungs & brain