people, lupus is a mild disease affecting only a few organs.
For others, it may cause serious and even life-threatening
problems. As hard as it is to determine if someone has lupus,
it has proven even harder to find a cure.
it is estimated that 500,000 to 1.5 million Americans suffer
from lupus with more than 16,000 Americans developing the
disease each year.
More than half of lupus patients develop a red, flat
rash over the bridge of the nose, frequently referred to as the “butterfly rash”.
However, there is hope for those who suffer from lupus. Most recently, the blockbuster drug belimumab (Benlysta) has been marketed as the first new drug to fight lupus in more than half a century -- by addressing lupus symptoms (although not curing the condition.) The drug is not effective on all lupus sufferers, and those who are being treated must be carefully monitored for other illnesses due to belimumab's immune-suppressant action.
what is lupus? Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder
that affects the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys. A fully
functioning immune system makes proteins to protect the human
body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials.
has lupus it means that the person's immune
system cannot tell the difference between the foreign
substances and its own cells and tissues.
When this happens
the immune system makes antibodies directed against itself.
These antibodies, called "auto-antibodies," react
with the "self" antigens to form immune complexes.
The immune complexes build up in the tissues and can cause
stiffness & swelling, injury to tissues, and sometimes
lupus? Scientists believe that there is a genetic link within
families to the disease but it is known that environmental
factors also play a critical role in triggering lupus. Some
of the factors that may trigger symptoms are: infections,
certain antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, and
still not clear why lupus occurs more frequently among adult
females than males. Lupus is often called a "woman's
disease" even though many men are affected. Lupus does
not discriminate and can occur at any age. The symptoms of
the disease are the same in men and women.
Besides the tell-tale butterfly rash, other symptoms of lupus may include
heart and lung problems, joint stiffness, and Raynaud's phenomenon --
typified by fingers turning white (or blue) and becoming cold and tingly.
are three types of lupus: discoid, systemic, and drug-induced.
Discoid (cutaneous) lupus is always limited to the skin. It
is identified by a rash that may appear on the face, neck,
and scalp. This rash is usually in the unique shape of a butterfly.
For some people discoid lupus progresses into systemic lupus.
When talking about the disease, it is systemic
lupus that is most often mentioned. Systemic lupus is usually
more severe than discoid lupus. Sometimes only the skin and
joints will be involved. For others, the joints, lungs, kidneys,
blood, or other organs and/or tissues may be affected. Since
everyone's immune systems are different, usually no two people
with systemic lupus will have identical symptoms.
systemic lupus, there may periods of time in which minimal,
if any, symptoms are evident and other times when the pain
and discomfort becomes more intense and more frequent.
triggers an attack of lupus? In some patients, exposure
to the sun causes sudden development of a rash and
other symptoms. In others, an infection as simple as a cold may act as a trigger. In still other cases, a drug
taken for some illness produces the signaling symptoms.
the first symptoms and signs develop during pregnancy or soon
after delivery. There are many people who cannot remember
any specific factor. It seems that the triggers can be all
unrelated for the same case of lupus, which makes it difficult
for the person to pinpoint the cause of the flare.
can also be times when someone who has been diagnosed with
lupus shows no signs or symptoms at all. These remission periods
are a blessing, but often are short-lived. Lupus patients
know that there is no cure so there is bound to be a flare
up that will be debilitating. Although flares are inevitable,
the earlier they are detected, the more easily they can be
So until a cure is discovered, how else is lupus treated? For
the majority of people with lupus, effective treatment can
minimize symptoms, reduce painful swelling, and maintain normal
bodily functions. Over-the counter-pain medications and steroid medications can reduce joint pain and swelling, and preventive measures like staying out of the sun can reduce the risk
of flares. A variety of other lupus medications
are often prescribed for people with lupus depending on the
severity of the individual's case and which organs are involved.
is treated early, the patient's chances increase for reducing
the time spent on high doses of drugs and decreasing permanent
tissue or organ damage. One of the most important things that
every person diagnosed with lupus can do is to find a lupus
With better understanding of the disease and the development of new drugs to fight it, the prognosis
of lupus is much better today than ever before.