It is an autoimmune disorder with no know etiology or cure, but if Lupus is detected early and treated on time, it’s possible to lead a normal life
You’ve just had a great day out with friends on the beach and are now gearing up for that party. But you suddenly notice this rash on your face covering your cheeks and nose – not the slight pink flush that looks attractive, but the angry red one. In fact, you notice that everytime you step out during the day you’re left with an angry red rash on your face. If you notice this happening all too often, don’t dismiss it as a skin allergy due to sun exposure. It could be some thing more serious like systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as lupus or SLE).
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body. “It is an autoimmune condition, meaning that your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues, thinking that they are foreign. This can lead to pain, swelling, and damage to multiple organs. While we don’t yet know its etiology, there are treatment options available,” says Dr Manish Dugar, consultant rheumatologist at Apollo Hospital.
While the exact cause of lupus is not known, as is the case with any autoimmune disease, it has been observed that it tends to run in families. “It also affects more women than it does men. This could probably be due to hormonal factors, though it hasn’t been established yet. While lupus can affect any age group it is most common between the ages of 16 and 55,” says Dr V Sarath Chandra Mouli, chief rheumatologist at KIMS.
A person who develops lupus probably inherits the risk from one or both parents and then develops the disease when exposed to a trigger.Triggers may include exposure to sunlight, being ill with an infection, having surgery, or being pregnant.
“One of the most common symptoms of lupus is skin rashes, especially due to sun exposure, easy tanning, pigmentation on the skin, severe hair loss, ulcers in the mouth, joint pains and swellings,” explains Dr Sarath.
“Frequent fevers and organ specific symptoms are also seen since lupus can affect multiple organs in the body. Stress, both emotional and physical, may also exaggerate the symptoms of lupus. So if a person is suffering from lupus they should try and avoid stress as it will only worsen their condition,” adds Dr Manish.
Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, easy bruising, decreased appetite and gastrointestinal disease.
“There are several treatment options available. We mainly use medications to treat this condition. Surgery is not required,” says Dr Sarath.Dr Manish adds, “Medications usually include steroids and immuno suppressants. While there is no cure for lupus it can be managed like any other chronic ailment like diabetes or hypertension.
If the lupus is severe it can affect organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain etc. It is due to this that lupus is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.”
“If lupus is properly treated and at the right time, a person can lead a normal life. While we can prevent the onset of lupus, avoiding sun exposure, using an umbrella and sunblock help,” explains Dr Sarath.