Have you ever wondered how many diseases a person has to worry about contracting? There is a threat for thousands that can affect the human body. One of the most common diseases found in the population is a disease known as lupus. According to Ana Rio, Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body’s own cells to attack each other. In a normal immune system, the body’s cells protect the body from foreign invaders, the immune system affected by lupus forms antibodies against its own cells and the immune system does not defend the body against these foreign invaders. There are four different types of lupus that a person can develop, neonatal lupus, Discoid Lupus, Drug-induced lupus, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Rio, 2007, pp. 3-5). The most common form of lupus is SLE and it affects many areas of the body, such as, musculoskeletal system, central nervous system, endocrine system, and blood disorders.
The most common system affected by SLE is the musculoskeletal system that allows our bodies to move and includes our muscles, bones, and joints. The problems associated with the musculoskeletal system include arthralgia, arthritis, osteonecrosis, myopathy, and osteoporosis, which may increase the risk of fractures (“Musculoskeletal Manifestations, n.d). In addition to the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system, responsible for how we think, and all of our senses, such as hearing, smelling, seeing, and feeling is at risk. Divided into two parts, the nervous system include the Central Nervous System contains the brain and spinal cord, and the Peripheral Nervous System contains all the nerves that lead to and from the Central Nervous System into the rest of the body (Ehrlich & Schroeder, 2013, p. 307). The syndromes found in the CNS due to lupus include Aseptic Meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges found in the brain and spinal cord (Ehrlich & Schroeder, 2013, p. 593), cerebrovascular disease, a disease related to the blood vessels of the brain. The main outcome of cerebrovascular disease is a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) most commonly known as a stroke (Thomas, n.d., p. 217). In addition, people with SLE suffer from movement disorders. The most common type of movement disorders called chorea. Chorea is a disorder that causes patients to have sudden, uncontrollable, brief movements of the arms, legs, or head (Thomas, n.d., p. 222). This disease has many symptoms that a person can experience, such as, fatigue, a general loss of energy involving both physical and mental exhaustion. Fevers, weight loss due to lupus, possibly because of loss of appetite or increase use of calories by the body due to the fevers and the systemic inflammation associated with SLE (Thomas, n.d., pp. 95-101). SLE patients also experience joint pain and stiffness, skin rashes such as the butterfly rash that extends over the bridge of the nose and cheeks, chest pain, headaches, hair loss, anemia, and blood-clotting problems. According to the article on healthline.com, other symptoms can depend on the part of the body the disease is attacking (“Systemic Lupus Erythematosus,” n.d.).
Since symptoms vary from person to person and are often similar to other diseases diagnosing lupus can be extremely difficult. In order to diagnose lupus a physician will give the patient a physical examination, checking for typical signs of the disease. To diagnose lupus the physician may do screenings such as blood tests, urinalysis, or a chest x-ray (“Systemic Lupus Erythematosus,” n.d.). Blood tests, such as the complete blood count (CBC) will measure the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, as well as the amount of hemoglobin a protein found in red blood cells. While reviewing the CBC, the doctor may find that a patient is anemic or has a low white blood cell or platelet, which commonly occurs in a patient with lupus (“Lupus,” n.d.). The urinalysis will show an increased protein level or red blood cells in the urine, and the chest x-ray may reveal abnormal shadows that suggest fluid or inflammation in the lungs (“Lupus,” n.d.). There are many ways to treat lupus; it depends on the patient’s signs and symptoms. The medications most commonly used to control lupus are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressant’s (“Lupus,” n.d.). Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve or Ibuprofens such as Advil or MotrinIB all medications used to treat the pain, swelling and fever caused by lupus (Thomas, n.d., p. 618). NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, however, some lupus patients may require stronger medications that are only available through a prescription. There are other types of medications used to control lupus, but they can cause severe side effects, including corticosteroids and immunosuppressant’s (“Lupus,” n.d.). According to medicinenet.com, the outlook for people with systemic lupus is improving with each decade with the development of more accurate monitoring tests and treatments (“Medicinenet.com,” n.d.). Although it is improving, SLE patients still pose a threat for developing cancer at an increased risk level. The cancer risk is most dramatic for blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, as well as an increased risk for developing breast cancer (Thomas, n.d., p. 300). In addition, women with SLE are at an increased risk for heart disease such as coronary artery disease (Thomas, n.d., p. 312). Most frequently found in adolescents, young adults, and women of reproductive years. Diagnosing lupus can happen at any time in life, however, most often, the disease diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, and it is very rare before the age of five. SLE found in both men and women; however, 90% of all the people who have SLE are women (“Missing Chapter,” n.d.). Another risk factor for developing lupus includes a patient’s race. Lupus is more common in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians (“About us,” n.d.). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly three times more African Americans than Caucasians present worse than average symptoms at an earlier age with higher death rates (“About us,” n.d.). There can be many different medical specialists involved in the diagnosing, treating, and managing of lupus because it affects many different areas of the body. The doctors a lupus patient may have to see are a cardiologist, a clinical immunologist to study resistance to infections and diseases, a dermatologist who specializes in the skin, hair, and nails. A hematologist that deals with all aspects of diseases of the blood and bone marrow, a neurologist who specializes in the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, peripheral nerves, and nervous system, a psychologist that deals primarily with the workings of the human mind. In addition, they may have to see a rheumatologist that specializes in non-surgical treatment of rheumatic diseases, especially arthritis (“What Kinds of Doctors Treat Lupus,” n.d.).
Since there is no known cause for lupus, there is no way to prevent or cure it. Although lupus is an incurable disease, a lupus patient can help manage the flare-ups they experience simply by avoiding their known triggers. Triggers can be anything such as sunlight, stress, and/or lack of sleep (“Lupus,” n.d.). The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus, and 70% of all cases are Systemic Lupus. In about half of the cases, major organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, or brain pose a risk for diseases (“About us,” n.d.). In addition, in approximately 10% of all cases, patients with lupus will have signs and symptoms of more than one connective tissue disease, including lupus. Another important statistic is that 20% of patients will have had a parent or sibling who had lupus or will eventually develop lupus (“About us,” n.d.). Lupus affects a person’s life in many ways not just medically but also financially. Two of three lupus patients have reported a complete or partial loss of income because they are no longer able to work due to the complications of their illness (“About us,” n.d.).
About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.lupus.org/about/statistics-on-lupus
Ehrlich, A., & Schroeder, C. (2013). Medical terminology for health professions (7th ed., p. 593). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, Cengage Learning.