The immune system defends the body against microorganisms and other harmful intruders, as well as cancer cells. But what happens when our immune system starts targeting our healthy tissue by mistake?
This condition creates illnesses that are broadly referred to as autoimmune diseases. They can vary in type and, intensity, symptoms, and causes.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that is treated for extended periods of time, usually followed by remission. Although the disease begins on a molecular/cellular level, it may get to a point where the symptoms can be seen by the naked eye. Like most other autoimmune diseases, this one is also characterized by tissue inflammation.
Lupus is a complex and very challenging autoimmune disease that attacks organs. Any organ system in the entire human body can become a target. Around 90% of people diagnosed with lupus are female, and 15% of those diagnosed are children.
The main issue with lupus is that no two cases are alike, what with the wide variety of causes, symptoms, and organs that this affliction can target. Here are some systems that are most commonly affected by lupus:
- Oral system
- Ophthalmologic system
- Central nervous system
- Gastrointestinal system
- Hematologic system
- Musculoskeletal system
- Renal system
- Reproductive system
- Cardiopulmonary system
- Dermatologic system
Making the Diagnosis
In medicine, diagnosing diseases relies heavily on documented cases. But, as mentioned earlier, no two lupus cases are alike.
Increased body temperature, for example, can be a sign of many different ailments, including the common cold. In the case of a cold, other telltale signs include sneezing, coughing, a sore throat, a runny/stuffy nose, and many others.
However, a fever can also be a sign of an approaching lupus flare, although it doesn’t have to manifest in every lupus case. This is the main problem: lupus is extremely difficult to diagnose because it affects everyone differently. Luckily, some common signs and symptoms do exist.
- Discoid rash – Red, raised patches in the shape of a disk.
- Malar rash – A rash over the nose and cheeks, typically butterfly-shaped.
- Oral ulcers – Sores in the mouth.
- Photosensitivity – The skin’s reaction to light, usually in the shape of skin rash and fatigue.
- Arthritis – Joint pain and swelling.
- Kidney disorder – Cellular casts and protein in the urine.
- Neurological disorder – Psychosis, seizures, sudden unstable behavior.
- Immunologic disorder – Irregular antibodies.
- Blood disorder – Anemia, thrombocytopenia, leukopenia.
- Positive antinuclear antibody
Although hefty, this list of symptoms is used only to evaluate whether a patient is to become a lupus research study. Many lupus symptoms are (seemingly) random and many lupus cases do not get diagnosed at all, likely ending fatally.
How Lupus Affects the Organs
Although these examples are from official case studies, the way the disease affects organs in this example doesn’t have to repeat in other patients in identical or similar ways.
High blood pressure, protein in the urine, bloody urine, weight gain, fatigue, decreased urination – these are all signs of an improperly functioning kidney. Although lupus isn’t the only medical affliction that causes these symptoms, this is how the kidneys react to the disease.
The butterfly (malar) rash is the most common way lupus visibly impacts the skin. As stated earlier, this rash appears around the nose and on the cheeks, but it can also appear anywhere else on the body.
CNS (Central Nervous System) lupus is perhaps the least common form of this autoimmune disease that attacks organs. However, it is very dangerous. CNS lupus can cause brain fog, confusion, seizures, strokes, and changes in personality. Numbness and tingling are also known symptoms, as lupus can target the peripheral nervous system.
Essentially, lupus can target any organ in the human body, and it usually won’t stop at the single one. The blood, bones, and heart are often affected, but there really are no rules here.
Dealing with Lupus
Unfortunately, lupus is a chronic disease. Although there is no known cure for this affliction yet, there are ways to cope with it. There have been many instances in which the disease has entered the remission stage in patients, enabling them to live a completely normal life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes without saying.
A Well-Balanced Diet
A healthy, well-balanced diet is known for its inflammation-reducing properties. It prevents nutrient deficiencies caused by the disease and helps alleviate the side-effects from lupus medication. It also reduces the risk of organ failure.
If you have been diagnosed with lupus, you should be aiming at low-fat, low-cholesterol, and low-sodium foods. Avoiding refined sugars is more than recommended. The main aim here should be fruits and vegetables with high concentrations of antioxidants and fiber.
Patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases often tend to turn towards holistic, alternative medicine in addition to their prescribed treatments. Finding a remedy that works for you is the first step towards a normal life, and there are many options out there.
Acupuncture has been a known lupus remedy. This therapy type is based on inserting tiny needles just under the skin, and it can work wonders for muscle pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are generally very healthy, and can’t hurt if taken in moderation. Including these in your diets may help you, but you can also opt for omega-3 food supplements.
Being an Autoimmune Warrior
Before and above anything else, people who suffer from autoimmune diseases need support from their friends and family, but also from their peers. Get in touch with other people who have lupus and other autoimmune diseases, and then learn as much as you can about your affliction. Staying in touch with the Autoimmune Warrior community is essential, as it can help you cope with the challenges in front of you. You can find ways to help others, as well.
Living with the Disease
Lupus is a very serious chronic autoimmune disease, but it is very much treatable. There are many people around the globe who’ve successfully dealt with the main stage of this affliction – the diagnosis. Once you’ve changed your lifestyle and started working on bettering yourself medically, you’ll see the lupus symptoms starting to subside.
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