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Facts about Lupus

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/25/2007 | Health

Lupus is an autoimmune condition in which a person's body attacks itself instead of attacking foreign invaders such as viruses and cancer cells. Lupus is also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE for short. This autoimmune condition can lead to chronic inflammation and can present different symptoms in different people. One interesting fact about lupus is that about 90% of sufferers are women.

Lupus is often hard to diagnose because the symptoms can imitate those of other diseases, and people that suffer from lupus may not be able to specify exactly what is afflicting them except for the feeling that something just isn't right in their body. Lupus displays a variety of different symptoms, such as muscle soreness or fatigue, which could also be due to a lot of other conditions.

Lupus may affect the joints, internal organs such as the kidneys, the skin and the nervous system. It can occur in a mild form alternating with a more severe form of the disease. At times it seems to be in remission only to come back at a later time in a stronger form.

A doctor can suspect the presence of lupus, but until it is confirmed by medical tests, it could be a wrong diagnosis. There are certain blood tests that can be performed to detect the presence of lupus, such as the antinuclear antibody test, which can reveal the presence of lupus in the majority of people who suffer from this disease. After this preliminary test, there are other tests that can be performed: the presences of anti-double strand DNA and anti-Smith antibodies are definitive proof of the presence of lupus.

The treatments that are currently used to deal with lupus depend on the seriousness of the patient's symptoms. In the case of milder forms of lupus involving only skin rashes, fatigue, and pain in the joints, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID's) may be used effectively. In more serious cases of lupus stronger immunosuppressive medications are necessary, and doctors often prescribe a combination of different drugs. Unfortunately these more powerful medications can have serious side effects, such as high blood pressure, a weaker immune system and therefore a greater risk of infections, loss of hair, vomiting and nausea, and brittle bones.

A good deal of lupus information is available on the Internet. A good site with resources on many different topics is www.about.com. Just click on the link that says "Health" and then on the link on "Arthritis" and you will find a lot of facts about lupus. Another web site where one can find plenty of information on lupus is sponsored by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at www.niams.nih.gov.