Symptoms and treatment of lupus
Lupus is not an everyday condition and many people know little to nothing about it; "What is lupus?" is the most common question a patient asks after a doctor makes a diagnosis. There are two major types of lupus: systemic lupus, which is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack healthy cells (affecting the body's organs, muscles and joints); and lupus skin conditions, which present as severe inflamed ulcers on the body and the face.
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It's not known what causes lupus, but it is believed to be associated with hormonal changes. The condition typically affects both men and women between the ages of 15 and 45.
Because lupus can affect so many areas of the body, the symptoms are very widespread. Common symptoms include (but aren't limited to):
- Swelling of the feet, legs and joints
- Rash on the cheeks and nose or scaly skin patches
- Hair loss
- Sensitivity to sun
- Chest pain
Because of the diversity and multitude of the symptoms, it can also be difficult for doctors to make a diagnosis. Lupus can also lead to serious conditions such as kidney problems and heart problems. A blood test for lupus is generally performed when several of these symptoms appear to check for the presence of a lupus anticoagulant, which can be a signifier of the disease.
While sufferers of lupus have it for life, the condition typically presents itself in unpredictable periods of outbreak and remission. Some cases of lupus are mild and don't require treatment, as breakouts are infrequent and minimal and symptoms are manageable. Others may require treatment with medications, such as corticosteroids, painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
Part of lupus treatment is learning how to keep the condition under control. Lupus can be triggered by stress, so patients are advised to practice stress management. Diet and exercise are also very important in preventing lupus outbreaks.
For sufferers of lupus, skin care is also incredibly important. Exposure to the sun should be limited, and a when out in the sun, skin should be covered with clothing or sunscreen.