I’ll tell you what lupus is, how to detect it, what steps to take, and how you, or a loved one, with lupus can live the best life. It will sound scary at first, but stay with me; it will be okay.

What is lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, affecting millions, that causes the immune system to become hyperactive and attack healthy parts of the body in an attempt to correct illness when there is none. This can cause inflammation, pain, and nerve damage. Lupus can affect any body system, including the skin, lungs, muscles, and bones.

When people hear “lupus”, they usually think systemic lupus, which is what affects other organs, but it can also be cutaneous, drug induced, or neonatal.

  • Cutaneous lupus affects the skin, but should be taken as an opportunity to have the other organs checked for any underlying issues.
  • Neonatal is rare and is passed on from the mother to her unborn baby; it usually resolves within six months of the baby’s life. Tests should be done to monitor the baby’s heart functions.
  • Drug induced lupus is caused by high doses of certain medications. It presents with the same side effects as systemic lupus, but it typically resides once the medication is out of the system.

Who gets it?

It is more common in women and people with darker pigmented skin, but it can affect anyone with any skin type. It may be more likely in people with a family history of lupus and/or autoimmune disease.

Why lupus?

The cause is unknown, but triggers include UV rays, fluorescent lighting, high dosages of certain medication like sulfa drugs and minocycline, fatigue, emotional stress, surgeries, or infections. Some researchers have linked high levels of estrogen to people with lupus, but there is no guarantee that estrogen causes the disease.

Signs and symptoms

Fatigue, hair loss, joint aches, low grade fevers, headaches, photosensitivity, chest pain when breathing, hand/foot swelling, swelling around the eyes, numbness on the toes or fingers, mouth sores, anemia, blood clots, and a butterfly rash across the face are all signs of lupus.

Blood work is vital for detecting lupus. Skin biopsies are also beneficial. Lupus presents as flaky, thick, circularly-shaped, swollen, or scaly areas ranging from pink to purple in color. The lesions are rarely physically bothersome.

Check in with a rheumatologist to monitor internal autoimmune effects; they may refer you to the other specialists to ensure the best care is provided.

Customizable care

  • Steroid creams alleviate the topical manifestations of lupus. The steroid strength is determined by the severity of the symptoms.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used for joint aches, chest pain, fever, and swelling.
  • Antimalarials, alone or with another medication, control fatigue, joint pain, rashes, and lung inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs manage kidney or central nervous system issues; they restrain the overactive immune system to reduce unnecessary damage.
  • BLyS-specific inhibitors (B-lymphocyte stimulator) help systemic lupus. It is an injection that reduces the number of B cells that can cause complications.

Other medication may be decided by your doctor(s) to treat any associated complications.

Seek shade and take charge

Sun screen and sun protective clothing prevent the worsening of lupus. Staying out of direct sunlight and avoiding the harshest hours of sun exposure (10am-2pm) are also vital. Use thick creams and ointments that won’t irritate your damaged skin.

You control lupus, it doesn’t control you

Detect the signs early, be diagnosed, manage your symptoms, and move on with your life. We are living in the modern age of medicine; resources should be used to the greatest extent. If you are concerned, be tested. Your health is important and should not be taken lightly. It is better to test negative than to not be tested and go untreated.

Make sure to keep in touch with us through our Facebook page and website. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call our office at (334)-676-3366. And make sure to check in next month for the June edition “Sun Safety”!

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