There are many types of autoimmune diseases, and one that affects as many as five million people around the globe is lupus erythematosus, usually known simply as lupus. Like most autoimmune disorders, most forms of lupus have no cure, and doctors can only treat the symptoms of the disease using a variety of medicines.
For most of us, the immune system is a scientific marvel, protecting us against all sorts of diseases and bacteria. When you have an autoimmune disorder, the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues, rather than doing its intended job. This is what happens with lupus. Our immune system begins attacking the body it is supposed to be protecting and begins damaging our tissues.
There are four types of lupus, and the most common is the systemic category, which means that it affects many different parts of the body. Discoid lupus is another form and affects only the skin and not internal organs. Neonatal lupus sometimes appears in newborns to mothers who have lupus, but the disease generally disappears within a few weeks. Drug-induced lupus is another variety of the disease linked to the use of certain types of heart medicine, and generally, stopping these medicines will also cause the lupus to go away.
Systemic lupus is by far the most common, and 90 percent of those diagnosed are women. This is a very difficult disease to diagnose because symptoms often come and go, and because the symptoms mimic many other diseases. One common marker of lupus is a butterfly rash on the face, but this appears on only about half of those who have the disease. In general, those afflicted suffer from joint pain, fever, extreme fatigue, swollen glands, chest pain and mouth sores. You can even suffer from depression, problems with memory and seizures, and lupus can cause repeated miscarriages. The severity of symptoms and the combination of symptoms can be different from person to person.
While it certainly is important for all of us to undergo preventative testing, such as that which screens for breast cancer and colon cancer, it is especially needed for lupus patients. They have a higher risk of getting infections, as well as cancer, heart disease and even osteoporosis. Eating well, exercising and scheduling screening tests can be good ways to prevent serious problems from occurring.
There are many medications that treat lupus, including corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs and even anti-malarial drugs. In addition, there are drugs available that use monoclonal antibodies to deal with symptoms of lupus. Belimumab, for example, was created from a monoclonal antibody and is used for some patients with systemic lupus.
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