What Is Lupus?

Arthritis, Healthy Aging, Healthy Living
on June 7, 2011

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder that behaves similarly to rheumatoid arthritis, except that it can affect the entire body. The symptoms vary widely according to which organs or systems are affected and can often fluctuate — they can be crippling one day and barely noticeable the next. Lupus is a chronic disorder that can even lead to death in severe cases. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, in modern advances in medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The outlook for people with lupus was once grim, but diagnosis and treatment of lupus has improved considerably. With treatment, most people with lupus can lead active lives.”

Symptoms of lupus. It can be very difficult to identify lupus from symptoms alone, since many are the same as other — widely varied — diseases and disorders. Lupus may appear as arthritis and is often accompanied by chest pain, fatigue, strange rashes, hair loss and much more. Other symptoms will depend on what parts of the body are affected and may include everything from migraines, to nausea, to coughing up blood and having trouble breathing. It is important to pay attention to the myriad symptoms to help your doctor make the diagnosis, because most tests for SLE depend on confirmation of symptoms rather than any definitive test.

Treatment. While there is no specific treatment for lupus, in most cases the symptoms can be controlled once they’re identified. What kind of treatment is used will, again, depend entirely on which systems are affected by the disease. This may be anything from skin creams to treat rashes and other skin abnormalities, to treatments recommended by specialists for heart, lung and kidney involvement.

Living with lupus. Despite the dire prognosis of many of the aspects of lupus, with the right management many people have been able to live a relatively normal, active life with the disease. It may require a little more effort to live a healthy lifestyle, as well as schedule regular visits to the doctor to monitor and assess new symptoms, but there are few symptoms that can’t be treated to some degree if they’re identified at an early enough stage.