Lupus

All about Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune chronic disease in which autoantibodies and immune system damage organs and cells for unknown reasons. This means that the body will produce many defense cells that will auto attack the organism because the immune system, in charge of defending ourselves against any external threat, cannot see the difference between pathogens -like bacteria, viruses and fungus- and the own body cells.

Even when this is an uncommon disease, it is one of the most frequent autoimmune disorders. The highest percentage of people affected are women, especially African-American and Afro-Caribbean women, and the lowest prevalence is in white men.

In most patients, autoantibodies are present for a few years before the first clinical symptom appears. It is important to remember that this system is in charge of defending ourselves, and, to do that, they are found on the entire body; thus, the damage caused by the auto attack of these cells will be seen in the whole body. At its onset, it may involve one or several organ systems; over time, additional manifestations may occur.

Types of Lupus

They have identified several kinds of lupus, but the more commonly diagnosed are these two:

1) Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): in this case, the entire body has a high amount of these antibodies, causing multiples symptoms and a massive amount of damage. The most frequent -and initial symptoms- of this type of Lupus are myalgias and arthralgias. People with SLE have intermittent polyarthritis, varying from mild to disabling, characterized by soft tissue swelling and tenderness in joints and/or tendons, most commonly in hands, wrists, and knees. The severity of SLE varies from mild and intermittent to severe and fulminant where the probability of death is high.

2) Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE):  lesions are commonly red, scaly and thick. They rarely hurt or itch. Over time, these lesions can cause scarring and discoloration of the skin (dark areas of color and/or clear). These injuries are likely to see on the scalp, neck, hands, and feet, but can be found anywhere in the body. It is important to mention that the coin-shaped lesions it produces are the origin of its name.

The disease evolves in the form of acute outbreaks, where the symptoms are more numerous and more intense, interspersed with periods without symptoms knew as “remission”.

During outbreaks, most patients experience symptoms in only a few organs. Half of the people with lupus only have clinical manifestations on the skin and joints. However, the list of symptoms that lupus can produce is very extensive and can include the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.

Diagnosis of Lupus

Like other rheumatological diseases, lupus has no complementary diagnostic tests that are definitive and can determine the disease. The symptoms, clinical findings, and analytical tests, therefore, are the base of the diagnosis. In the case of the Discoid Lupus Erythematosus, people see a doctor as soon as the injuries appear and the process of diagnosis is faster.

Treatments

The handle of the disease is not subject to a single therapy. It is very different depending on the organ it affects, although corticosteroids are considered the basic treatment since it is ideal to placate the antibodies and limit the damage they could be causing. In minor manifestations such as arthritis, pleuropericarditis or cutaneous manifestations, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could be used together with corticosteroids.

While the diet must be complete, healthy and balanced, there is no food that is particularly harmful to the patient. The disease could affect the kidney, causing high blood pressure, which is why patients have to know salty or spicy foods are not recommended consuming.