13 Sep What is Lupus? Understanding the Condition to Better Treat It
What is Lupus?
Lupus is a condition that affects the body’s autoimmune system, causing it to function abnormally. The immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue instead of diseased tissue, as it should. Our immune system works by encountering infection and developing antibodies to fight these infections. When the body has an autoimmune disorder, these antibodies are unable to tell the difference between healthy and damaged tissue. It develops autoantibodies that circulate the body and attack healthy organs and tissues, creating swelling and pain.
The most common autoantibody in lupus is the antinuclear antibody. This antibody attacks the nucleus and DNA of healthy cells. Only some organs cells allow antibodies through their cell walls, which is why lupus only affects certain organs. The most common symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs. There are four different ways this disease can manifest, but the most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
This form of lupus is systemic, meaning it can flow throughout the body and affect many different places. The symptoms of systemic lupus can be mild or extremely severe, depending on the individual’s case. Because this form of lupus can spread throughout the body, it is able to affect many different organs at the same time. This can make it more difficult to treat because there are many different areas and tissues that need medication. This condition typically goes through cycles. At times of remission, the person will have no symptoms. During a flare-up, the disease is active, and symptoms appear.
Discoid lupus symptoms affect only the skin, not other organs and tissues like systemic lupus. A rash appears typically on the face, neck, and scalp. The raised areas may become thick and scaly due to scabbing, and scarring may result later if not treated properly. The rash may last from a number of days to several years, and it can return. This form of lupus does not affect other organs, but these patients may a small chance of developing systemic lupus erythematosus later in life.
Around 80 drugs are thought to cause systemic lupus erythematosus potentially. The chance of developing lupus from these drugs is small, but about 10% of systemic lupus cases are due to drug reactions. These include some of the drugs that people use to treat seizures and high blood pressure. They also include some thyroid medications, antibiotics, antifungals, and oral contraceptive pills. Drug-induced lupus commonly ceases after the medications are stopped.
Neonatal lupus is passed from a pregnant mother with a condition on to her fetus. This form of lupus is extremely rare, and most mothers with lupus have normal, healthy children without the condition. Babies born with lupus will show the common rash-like symptoms and inflammation. This condition is usually treatable in infants. However, some will be born with a congenital heart defect, as well. This condition can be life-threatening and must be monitored by medical professionals.