Lupus, an autoimmune disease, affects fifteen times more women than men. This chronic condition can damage different organs and systems within the body. Because the symptoms of lupus are similar to other health problems, it can be difficult to get a proper diagnosis. Below you will find information on how is lupus diagnosed, what causes lupus, lupus symptoms in women, lupus medication, treatments, and life expectancy.
What is Lupus?
Lupus disease, sometimes called lupus erythematosus, causes pain and inflammation throughout the body. Skin sensitivity, damage to internal organs, joint pain, and other symptoms may vary from day-to-day. If symptoms become severe, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), can impact your day-to-day activities.
To better know about lupus, you must understand what an autoimmune disorder is and how it affects your health. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system can no longer distinguish between bacteria, viruses, and healthy tissues and organs in the body. As the immune system begins attacking and destroying healthy tissues and organs in the body, a number of autoimmune disorders can occur, including lupus.
Lupus Risk Factors
One common question is how do you get lupus? Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, which is caused when the immune system begins attacking the body. Although the exact cause remains unknown, there are several risk factors that can potentially increase your risk of developing SLE, including:
- Environmental Factors – Your environment can increase your risk of developing lupus. Those who are exposed to excess sunlight can increase the risk of lupus. In addition to this, medications, stress, smoking, and viral exposure can increase your risk of autoimmune diseases.
- Family History – If you have a family member who has been diagnosed with lupus, you are at an increased risk of developing lupus.
- Sex – Women are at an increased risk of developing lupus than men. Researchers believe this may be linked to hormonal changes. During the childbearing years, females are more likely to develop lupus.
Symptoms of Lupus in Women
Lupus disease affects every person differently. Lupus symptoms in women can develop over a period of time, or they can happen suddenly. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Furthermore, the symptoms can be temporary, or they can become permanent. Most individuals suffering from lupus have mild symptoms that occur during flares. Once the flare passes, symptoms may improve or disappear completely for a period of time.
The most common signs of lupus include:
- Butterfly rash that extends across the bridge of the nose to the cheeks
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Joint pain
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Low-grade fever
- Memory loss
- Shortness of breath
- Skin lesions that occur when the skin exposed to sunlight
How Does Lupus Affect the Body?
SLE lupus can affect different areas of the body. It can cause mild to moderate pain as well as cause serious complications to your organs. Some areas of the body impacted by lupus include:
- Blood – Lupus can cause issues in the blood. When you have a lupus flare-up, you may experience low blood platelets, low red blood cells, or low white blood cells. Low red blood cells can lead to SLE fatigue. Low white blood cells can increase the risk of serious infections. Finally, low platelet counts can cause easy bruising. Individuals with lupus are at an increased risk of blood clots, including deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms, and strokes.
- Brain – Although brain involvement is rare in lupus patients, if present, it can cause a number of issues. Confusion and depression may occur. In addition to this, sufferers may experience seizures and strokes when the immune system attacks brain tissues.
- Eyes – Lupus can affect the eyes in a variety of ways. The skin around the eyelids can change, dry eyes can occur, and the outer layer of the eyeball can become inflamed. Lupus can cause changes in the blood vessels in the retina as well as the nerves that control eye movements. Lupus eyes can impact vision and lead to vision loss over time.
- Heart and Lungs – Lupus can cause the pericardium (the covering of the heart) or the pleura (covering of the lungs) to become inflamed. When this occurs, you can experience fluid build-up around the heart (pericarditis) or lungs (pleurisy), irregular heartbeat, and chest pain.
- Joints – Arthritis is common in lupus patients. Arthritis can cause joint pain, joint stiffness, and joint inflammation. The joint pain may be worse in the mornings and ease during the day as you become more active. Lupus arthritis can last for a few days, or it can become chronic.
- Kidneys – Lupus can cause kidney problems, which can become life-threatening. Kidney disease may not cause any symptoms until it is quite advanced, which is why it is imperative to have a lupus test if you have the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Skin – One of the common areas affected by lupus is the skin. Many women get a lupus rash, or an autoimmune rash, which is found across the bridge of the nose and the cheeks. You may also experience large red rashes anywhere on the body, which is made worse when exposed to sunlight. You may also experience mouth sores and hair loss.
The treatment for lupus is based on your symptoms, age, medications, general health, and your medical history. Although lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease, it can be managed. The goal of lupus treatment is to put the autoimmune disorder into remission and limit the damage that occurs to the body.
Regular visits to a doctor specializing in autoimmune disorders are necessary as lupus can change with time. The unpredictable symptoms, changes in the intensity of your symptoms, and the chance of serious complications mean you must find a healthcare provider who understands this condition.
An integrative functional medicine practitioner specializing in autoimmune diseases focuses on treating the body as a whole and utilizing the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Lupus symptoms in women can be managed, and treatment involves reducing the frequency and severity of flares.