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Quick Patient Guide
What is Lupus?
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus(SLE): is a disease where the immune system becomes overactive; a chronic disease which affects one or many tissues of the body: skin, joints,muscles, blood vessels,blood cells, brain and nerves, internal organs such as lungs, heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and/or the linings around internal organs. Inflammatory and immune responses account for many of the symptoms observed in systemic lupus.
Discoid Lupus (DLE): In general DLE is a benign disease affecting the skin, which rarely affects the internal organs, i.e. rarely becomes systemic. Most studies suggest that approximately 5% of patients with discoid lupus at some stage may suffer a generalised flare of the disease, involving joints, kidneys etc. and may progress to developing systemic lupus erythematosus.
Drug-induced Lupus (DILE): can occur during the administration of certain drugs in susceptible individuals.
Who gets lupus?
Lupus affects women at least ten times as often as men, especially women in the childbearing years. It can, however, occur in children or old age. Afro- Caribbean, Asian and Eastern races are more likely to have lupus.
How does Lupus affect the body?
Lupus is a highly variable disease. Potentially, it can affect every organ and tissue of the body. In any individual patient, however, only some of these may ever be affected; the tissues and systems involved may change and the intensity of involvement may vary with time. The disease is very much an individual illness differing from person to person.
What are the features of lupus?
Fatigue, joint and muscle pain, flu-like illness, skin rashes (including the classical "butterfly" rash on the cheeks and nose), hair-loss and, more importantly, internal organ involvement including pleurisy, kidney disease and brain inflammation. Some patients with lupus have a clotting tendency and this can present, for instance, as a thrombosis in the vein or an artery.
How serious is Lupus?
In terms of how disruptive the disease is to life, most SLE is mild and with appropriate care these patients can live a virtually normal life with only periodic, brief interruption during times of flare but no significant threat to their internal organs. They may, however, need to make certain adaptations to their home and lifestyle to make life easier at these times. For patients with major kidney or central nervous system or vascular involvement the disease requires much more intensive medical follow up and treatment and has a much greater impact on lifestyle. But even these patients can often have long periods of remission.
How is Lupus diagnosed?
• Patient awareness of symptoms and accurate recording of these to the doctor is essential.
Blood tests: Antibody Test, Blood Count (CB), Sedimentation Rate, Complement Studies, Blood Chemistry Tests.
How is it treated?
The type of medication is determined by the clinical manifestations, and severity of symptoms.
a. Rest, adequate sleep, modifying activity during time of flare.
What is the outlook?
In summary, SLE is a potentially serious disease, which can affect almost any system of the body. We do not yet know what causes it. The outlook for survival has improved in recent years and most patients with SLE will continue to have mild disease. If diagnosed early and treated appropriately at an early stage, lupus may settle and ultimately go into remission – i.e. the patient requires no medication. With co-operation between the patient, family and physician the problems associated with the disease can be significantly modified.