Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic, recurrent, potentially fatal multisystem inflammatory disorder that can be difficultto diagnose.1,2 The disease has no single diagnostic marker; instead, it is identified through a combination of clinical and laboratory criteria.3 Accurate diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is important because treatment can reduce morbidity4–11 and mortality,12 particularly from lupus nephritis. This article reviews evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus by primary care physicians.
In lupus as the attack goes on, all the branches of the immune system join the fight. This leads to significant and intense inflammation. The cause of Lupus is unknown, as well as what drives its diverse presentation. We know that multiple factors are required, including: the “right” genetic makeup, environmental exposures, and organ specific characteristics. People with lupus may also have an impaired process for clearing old and damaged cells from the body, which in turn provides continuous stimuli to the immune system and leads to abnormal immune response.
If cyclophosphamide doesn’t work for patients with lupus nephritis, they now have the option of trying another drug, and more options are being tested in clinical trials, says Dr. Caricchio. For example, doctors may use CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil), Imuran (azathioprine), or Restasis (cyclosporine). Prograf (tacrolimus) may also be an effective option for lupus nephritis, according to study data appearing in the January 2016 edition of Autoimmunity Reviews. (5)
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine and body fluids. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body’s blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.
Immunosuppressive Medications Immunosuppressives are medications that help suppress the immune system. Many were originally used in patients who received organ transplants to help prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplanted organ. However, these drugs are now also used for the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Many women with lupus ask "it safe for me to get pregnant?" or "can I have a healthy pregnancy?" Pregnancy is possible in most patients with lupus, but complications are frequent. Anyone with lupus should be considered to have a high risk for health complications during pregnancy. When a woman with lupus becomes pregnant or is planning to become pregnant, she should get a referral for appropriate, specialized care. Lupus patients who are positive for aPL are at high risk of miscarriage, while patients with anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB antibodies are at risk for delivering a child with neonatal lupus.
Cognitive impairment is defined as any difficulty with normal thought functions or processes, such as thinking, learning, or remembering. Cognitive impairment can occur as a neurological symptom of lupus. However, cognitive impairment is a common occurrence that happens to everyone at some time, not just lupus patients, and it can affect one single thought process or many thought processes either temporarily or permanently.
(1) SOC; (2) SOC plus methotrexate (MTX); (3) SOC plus leflunomide (LFN); (4) SOC plus belimumab; (5) SOC plus abatacept (ABT); (6) other options: azathioprine (AZA), mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), cyclosporine A (CsA) or rituximab (RTX) (online supplementary tables S2.1.1, S2.1.4, S2.1.6, S2.1.7, S2.2.11, S2.1.11, S2.1.12, S2.1.14, S2.1.15, S2.1.17, S2.2.1, S2.2.2, S2.2.4, S3.1.1, S3.1.3–S3.1.6, S3.2.1, S3.2.2, S12.2–S12.5, S12.8–S12.10).
Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids (prednisone) may help reduce swelling, tenderness, and pain. In high doses, they can calm the immune system. Corticosteroids, sometimes just called “steroids,” come in different forms: pills, a shot, or a cream to apply to the skin. Lupus symptoms usually respond very quickly to these powerful drugs. Once this has happened, your doctor will lower your dose slowly until you no longer need it. The longer a person uses these drugs, the harder it becomes to lower the dose. Stopping this medicine suddenly can harm your body.
Antimalarials are another type of drug commonly used to treat lupus. These drugs prevent and treat malaria, but doctors have found that they also are useful for lupus. A common antimalarial used to treat lupus is hydroxychloroquine. It may be used alone or in combination with other drugs and generally is used to treat fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and inflammation of the lungs. Clinical studies have found that continuous treatment with antimalarials may prevent flares from recurring.
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At least half of people with lupus experience fatigue. (4) Fatigue may be brought on by the disease itself or from associated depression, anxiety, lack of exercise, and problems with sleep. ( 5) Because people with lupus need to avoid sun exposure, they may have low levels of vitamin D, which can contribute to fatigue. Lupus treatments may also play a role.
Although no one symptom qualifies someone as having lupus, certain clinical techniques can be used to narrow down the diagnosis. For example, a test for antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) in the blood is probably the first tool a physician will use. A positive ANA test does not necessarily mean that someone has lupus; in fact, one out of five normal women has a positive ANA. However, a negative ANA test greatly reduces the suspicion.
For people with joint or chest pain or fever, drugs that decrease inflammation, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), are often used. Although some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are available over the counter, a doctor’s prescription is necessary for others. NSAIDs may be used alone or in combination with other types of drugs to control pain, swelling, and fever. Even though some NSAIDs may be purchased without a prescription, it is important that they be taken under a doctor’s direction.
Today, physicians treat lupus using a wide variety of medicines, ranging in strength from mild to extremely strong. Prescribed medications will usually change during a person’s lifetime with lupus. However, it can take months—sometimes years—before your health care team finds just the right combination of medicines to keep your lupus symptoms under control.
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