The discovery of the LE cell led to further research and this resulted in more definitive tests for lupus. Building on the knowledge that those with SLE had auto-antibodies that would attach themselves to the nuclei of normal cells, causing the immune system to send white blood cells to fight off these "invaders", a test was developed to look for the anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) rather than the LE cell specifically. This ANA test was easier to perform and led not only to a definitive diagnosis of lupus but also many other related diseases. This discovery led to the understanding of what are now known as autoimmune diseases.
You may need to see different kinds of doctors to treat the many symptoms of lupus. Once you’re diagnosed, your primary physician for lupus is usually a rheumatologist, who treats arthritis and other diseases that cause swelling in the joints. The rheumatologist may then send you to a clinical immunologist for treating immune system disorders; a nephrologist (kidney disease); a hematologist (blood disorders); a dermatologist (skin diseases); a neurologist (the nervous system); a cardiologist (heart and blood vessel problems), and an endocrinologist (glands and hormones).
Subacute cutaneous: The skin symptoms of subacute cutaneous lupus are usually mild. People with this condition, which is also its own form of lupus, present with reddish-purple plaques, which are firm and raised, flattened skin lesions. These plaques can be found alone or in groups and range in size from 5 mm to 20 mm, usually appearing on the trunk, including the upper chest and back. About 10 percent of people with SLE have subacute cutaneous lupus. Certain drugs may also cause subacute cutaneous lupus.
In more severe cases, medications that modulate the immune system (primarily corticosteroids and immunosuppressants) are used to control the disease and prevent recurrence of symptoms (known as flares). Depending on the dosage, people who require steroids may develop Cushing's syndrome, symptoms of which may include obesity, puffy round face, diabetes mellitus, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping and osteoporosis. These may subside if and when the large initial dosage is reduced, but long-term use of even low doses can cause elevated blood pressure and cataracts.
Many people living with lupus are photosensitive or sensitive to the sun and fluorescent lights. It is recommended that all people living with lupus wear sunscreen. Sunscreens, greater than SPF 30, are vital in protecting patients from UVA and UVB rays which provoke skin rashes, lesions and other lupus disease activity. Patients should also avoid excess sun exposure by wearing sunscreen, wide-brim hats, avoid sunlight during peak hours of UV exposure (10:00 am - 2:00 pm) and wear tightly woven clothing.
However, this type of “specialized” treatment ignores the reality that all of your bodily systems are interconnected. Functional medicine, on the other hand, looks at the health of the entire body based on the fact that the health of one organ affects the function of the others. Rather than simply treating the symptoms, functional medicine aims to get at the underlying root causes of disease.
SLE is regarded as a prototype disease due to the significant overlap in its symptoms with other autoimmune diseases. This means that it is an important area of continued research and study that is utilizing diverse techniques such as GWAS, microarrays, and murine studies. Further genetic studies of multiple ethnic groups and the creation of disease models incorporating environmental influences will help to increase and refine the understanding of specific genes, linkages, as well as the mechanisms underlying the disease.
“My message to patients is that we can do an excellent job of managing the condition compared to 20 years ago,” says Roberto Caricchio, MD, the interim section chief of rheumatology at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and the director of the Temple Lupus Clinic at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. With that said, people should never underestimate the serious effects lupus can have, he adds, which is why working with your doctor to manage the condition is so important.
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