Lupus

Lupus is a long-term condition that affects various parts of the body, leading to joint pain, skin rashes, and persistent tiredness. While there is no cure for lupus, early treatment can help improve symptoms and manage the condition effectively.

Symptoms

Main symptoms:

  • joint and muscle pain
  • persistent tiredness that does not improve with rest
  • rashes, often over the nose and cheeks

Additional symptoms:

  • headaches
  • mouth sores
  • high temperature
  • hair loss
  • sensitivity to light, causing rashes on exposed skin

Causes

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's natural defence system (immune system) mistakenly attacks healthy parts of your body. While the exact causes of lupus are not fully understood, potential factors include:

  • viral infections
  • certain medications
  • sunlight exposure
  • hormonal changes during puberty, childbirth, and menopause

Lupus is more common in women, particularly black and Asian women.

Diagnosing lupus

Diagnosing lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, can be challenging as it shares similarities with other conditions. Symptoms may involve inflammation in various parts of the body, including the lungs, heart, liver, joints, and kidneys.

To aid in the diagnosis, your GP will likely conduct blood tests. Elevated levels of specific antibodies, combined with typical symptoms, suggest a likelihood of lupus. In some cases, you may be referred for X-rays and scans of organs like the heart and kidneys to assess potential involvement.

Managing lupus

Lupus can range from mild to severe, and its effects on the body can vary. Here's a breakdown:

  • Mild: Joint and skin problems, along with fatigue
  • Moderate: Inflammation affecting additional parts of the skin and body, including the lungs, heart, and kidneys
  • Severe: Inflammation causing severe damage to the heart, lungs, brain, or kidneys, which can be life-threatening

Lupus symptoms can flare up and settle down, with periods of worsening symptoms followed by remission. The reasons behind these fluctuations are not yet fully understood, and some individuals may experience constant symptoms.

Treatment options for lupus

Lupus is generally treated using a combination of approaches, including:

  • anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen
  • hydroxychloroquine for fatigue and skin and joint problems
  • steroid tablets, injections, and creams for kidney inflammation and rashes

In severe cases, medications such as rituximab and belimumab may be used to reduce the number of antibodies in the blood.

Living with lupus

While medication plays a vital role in managing lupus, there are self-care measures you can take to help alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of exacerbation:

Do:

  • use high-factor (50+) sunscreen, which can be obtained on prescription if you have lupus.
  • learn to pace yourself and avoid overexertion to prevent excessive fatigue.
  • stay active, even on difficult days, and engage in activities suitable for your condition.
  • practice relaxation techniques to manage stress, as stress can worsen symptoms.
  • wear a hat to protect yourself from sunlight.
  • inform your employer about your condition, as they may be able to accommodate adjustments in your working pattern.
  • seek support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals.
  • maintain a healthy, balanced diet that includes vitamin D and calcium.

Don't:

  • smoke, as quitting smoking is crucial for individuals with lupus.
  • expose yourself to direct sunlight or spend excessive time in rooms with fluorescent lights.

If you experience symptoms of lupus, it is important to consult with your GP for proper evaluation and guidance.


Doctor
General Practitioner

At Dr.Dropin our experienced GPs provide a wide range of primary care services, similar to those provided by the NHS, either in the clinic or through video consultations.

Dermatologist

At Dr.Dropin, you will receive specialist care from our expert Consultant Dermatologists provided by skindoc. With extensive experience from both public and private hospitals, we can assess and treat most chronic and acute skin disorders – either in the clinic, through video, or via a photo upload service.

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