Lupus; Key Q&A.
The immune system of a person with lupus is unbalanced, and this leads to excess targeting of normal tissue, causing inflammation, fever, achy joints, rashes and other problems. Virtually all lupus patients have autoantibodies in their blood at concentrations that can be detected by lab tests.
What are my risks for having lupus?
There is no way to predict who will get lupus and who won't. Women of childbearing age comprise the vast majority of cases, and the disease occurs more frequently in African-Americans, American Indians and Asians than in Caucasians. Risk to develop lupus is inherited, but only through a complicated series of interacting genes that may not be the same in all patients. People at high risk for lupus are more likely to develop it after exposure to an environmental trigger, which again, may not be identical in all patients. It is likely that some people with high risk genes for lupus will never develop the disease due to the lack of an environmental trigger.
Is there anything I can do to prevent lupus?
No. The disease is treatable and flares are controllable, but no one has discovered means of limiting your chances of developing the disease.
What are the most common symptoms of lupus?
The more common symptoms of lupus include joint pain, arthritis, unexplained fever, extended or severe fatigue, skin rashes, anemia and kidney damage. Other symptoms include neuropsychiatric problems, such as seizures, blood clotting problems, light sensitivity, hair loss, Raynaud's syndrome (fingers turning white or blue in the cold) and mouth or nose ulcers.
Is lupus curable?
Lupus is not curable, but it is treatable. Your health care professional can prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms, such as pain and inflammation. You can take action as well, by eating right, exercising, avoiding sunlight and getting plenty of rest.
Is it safe to have a baby even though I have lupus?
About 20 percent of lupus pregnancies have risk of miscarriage or stillbirth and about 25 percent are premature births. Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition that seems to occur more frequently in lupus patients. The risk for these outcomes increases if you have antiphospholipid antibodies. The good news is that appropriate treatments and specialized care from a high-risk OB team can markedly increase the odds for a successful and safe pregnancy. One to three percent of babies born to mothers with lupus are born with neonatal lupus, a condition that often resolves itself within three to six months. If you have certain autoantibodies (SSA-Ro and/or SSB La), you may need a fetal echocardiogram during your pregnancy. In most cases, this will lead to reassurance that the baby is fine. If you have a history of a stroke or current, active lupus kidney disease, it is not advisable to become pregnant.
What drugs are available to treat lupus?
Drugs prescribed for lupus include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin or ibuprofen; acetaminophen; antimalarials such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and chloroquine (Aralen), corticosteroids such as prednisone or medrol; immune suppressants such as azathioprine (Imuran), methotrexate (Rheumatrex). mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept) and leflunamide (Arava),; and cytotoxic drugs such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).
How can flares be prevented or the symptoms lessened?
A lupus flare can occur for no discernible reason, although some patients believe that they have experienced triggers for the flares, such as sunlight, stress, overwork, infection, injuries, surgery and immunizations.
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Keywords: lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, sle, lupus patients, women, flares, symptoms, medications, pregnancy, corticosteroids