Lupus is an Autoimmune Disease that affects approximately 5 million people worldwide. An autoimmune disease means that the immune system, which normally protects our body, turns against itself and attacks it, causing inflammation and changing the function of the affected system. Inflammation causes pain, heat, redness, and swelling. There is no known cause for Lupus and there is no cure for this disease. Lupus is a chronic disease, although there are phases of remission (when the disease is “asleep”) and outbreaks (when the disease is reactive). This condition can affect many different organs and systems (hence the name Systemic Lupus). There can also be very different forms of the disease; symptoms vary from patient to patient and even, in the same patient, from period to period. Lupus has a wide range of severity and can have very serious complications that require urgent attention. However, current treatment available permit most patients to have a good quality of life.
The disease is more prevalent in females (about eight to ten times more), occurring mainly at childbearing ages.
Although the cause of Lupus is not yet known, it is known that there are situations that make its symptoms more evident. These factors can be endogenous (of the individual) such as physical and emotional stress, excessive tiredness, infections, sleep deprivation, trauma, pregnancy and exogenous (external) such as sunlight and fluorescent light.
The course of Lupus is unpredictable. It is usually not a very serious condition, but without treatment, it can become very serious. When well oriented and treated, it is possible to live with Lupus maintaining a very good quality of life.
One of the problems of Lupus are its outbreaks. An outbreak is an acute reactivation of the disease, which is manifested by the aggravation of pre-existing symptoms or the development of new symptoms. The patient may experience tiredness, joint pain, mouth ulcers, red spots on the skin, chest pain when breathing in, swelling of the hands, feet or face. Outbreaks can take many different forms, indicate disease activity and usually require specific therapy.
Symptoms and signs that suggest Lupus are mainly tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss, red/pink spots (butterfly-shaped), on the face especially on the cheeks and nose, neck or arms, excessive sensitivity to sunlight, hair loss and sores in the mouth or nose.
The goal of lupus treatment is to prevent the “attack” of vital organs and in keeping the disease inactive. The treatment plan includes drugs, adequate exercise and rest, diet and avoiding UV exposure and stress.
Due to the impact that the disease can have on patients' quality of life, it is extremely important to be aware of this condition and to gather as much information as possible to reduce the suffering caused by this disabling and potentially fatal disease.
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