Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of Lupus
Definition of Lupus
Lupus, short form for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by its effect on different parts of the body such as the skin, joints, kidneys, and blood. Basically, it is a condition where the immune system of the human body attacks/ fights its own tissues and cells, culminating in inflammation, pain, and often damage to the affected organs. The good news is that for majority of sufferers, lupus is very mild and only affects one or two organs. For a select few however, the disease can prove unbearable as it can be very painful and severe, not to mention life threatening.
Four Types of Lupus
There are four types of Lupus today, but will mostly appear in two major forms. The first and most common one is the systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in which it affects almost all organs of the body. Drug-induced lupus is the other type of lupus, although it is a sub-type of the SLE caused by some medications rarely used for heart disease, blood pressure, and tuberculosis. Third type of Lupus is Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) which only affects the skin, causing an inflammation. The last type, although very rare is neonatal lupus, which, as the name would suggest, affects neonates born to women suffering from SLE.
Causes and Risk Factors
While the cause of lupus is still vague, it is believed to result from a relationship of genetic, hormonal, and environmental (stress, UV light, infections, chemicals, and use of some drugs) factors. While Lupus can affect people of all ages starting with newborns, it is very common among women aged between 15 and 45 years of age, especially women who are black.
- Skin rash
- Muscle aches
- Swelling and pain in joints
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss without trying
- Lesions around the bridge of the cheeks and nose
- Lesions on the scalp
Diagnosis of Lupus
A thorough physical examination, medical history, and several lab tests, coupled with the presence of some defining symptoms such as arthritis, oral ulcers, skin photosensitivity, butterfly rush, chest complications, kidney complications and neurological disorders (psychosis or seizures) to mention but a few will confirm the presence of lupus. At the moment, there is no one single lab test that can diagnose lupus but by evaluating the status of a patient’s immune system, doctors can be able to determine definitely whether someone is suffering from lupus or not. Such tests include:
- Anti-nuclear antibody test
- Anti-Sm antibody test
- Anti-DNA antibody test
- An evaluation of the complement level of serum
- Tests to confirm the presence of resistant complexes in the blood
Recommended exercises to ease lupus symptoms
- Motion exercises such as stretching to help relieve joint stiffness and increase flexibility
- Strengthening exercises such as weight-lifting to help boost muscle strength
- Endurance or aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, and/ or brisk walking to help in weight management, boost cardio fitness, and improve the general functioning of the body
Foods to include and exclude on a lupus diet
A very widespread misconception for people suffering from lupus is that there are some ‘good and bad’ foods which can either worsen or ease the lupus symptoms. This is not really the case. There are no bad foods so any meal can cause a flare. However, bad diets do exist hence a poor dietary choice can exacerbate your condition. Good nutrition is the secret ingredient for anyone suffering from lupus. There is no special diet for people suffering from lupus so generally you should ensure you eat a well balanced nutritious diet that has enough fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, reasonable amounts of oily fish poultry and meats so you can reduce inflammation. If you are suffering from osteoporosis, you might want to ensure your diet is characterized by sufficient amounts of calcium-rich foods to boost bone growth.