Back in 2015, Disney star and pop singer Selena Gomez opened up about her struggle with lupus. Again, in 2018, Gomez talked about her kidney transplant which was a direct result of her lupus disease. While she is not the first celebrity to deal with lupus, she is one of the most vocal youngsters to raise awareness about the disease and its impact on one’s mental, physical, and emotional health. While most people are still unaware of lupus, it is a disease that affects 0.40 million people annually. But what exactly is lupus, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and how can one identify the signs? Here’s a comprehensive guide for you.
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the healthy tissues in the body. Though the function of the immune system is to fight infections, in the case of lupus, it affects the healthy tissues in the body. Lupus affects multiple organs and systems throughout the body and is a life-long condition with no cure.
Lupus is of multiple types – Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Cutaneous Lupus which affects the skin, drug-induced lupus that’s caused by certain medications, and neonatal lupus which is found in newborns. Of these, SLE is the most common form of lupus found in about 70 per cent of the people affected. SLE causes inflammation in the skin and joints and further affects the lungs, blood, and heart, and it can even lead to kidney failure.
While lupus can affect adults and children, the disease is most commonly found in women between the ages of 14 and 44.
Signs and symptoms
The biggest drawback of lupus symptoms and signs is that they often mimic other ailments. SLE is known as “the great imitator” for the same reason. It takes years for a medical professional to diagnose a patient with lupus because its symptoms are similar to diabetes, arthritis, or other diseases. In a lot of cases, lupus goes undiagnosed for years. Here are some of the most common signs of lupus:
- Bald patches and hair loss
- Nose, mouth, or throat sores
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Chest pain while deep breathing
- Weight loss
- Severe joint and muscle pain
- Rashes on the face or body
- Fatigue and extreme sun sensitivity
- Poor circulation in fingers and toes
Causes of lupus
The causes of lupus remain unknown, but some of the possible factors are hormonal changes, environmental factors, and genetics. Lupus still doesn’t have a cure, so it is a disease that needs to be managed throughout the course of life. The purpose of treatment in cases of lupus is to limit the damage it causes to the body. Though the disease will never go away, a patient can manage the condition to minimise the impact it has on their life.
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