Scientists have suspected for years that infections from bacteria, viruses, and other toxins were likely to blame for the development of conditions like lupus. And while they have not been able to identify one single culprit, they have found strong correlations with a number of bacteria and viruses. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to trigger lupus in some individuals.4
To minimize complications in pregnancy, SLE ideally should be well controlled for at least 4-6 months before conception. Obstetricians who handle high-risk pregnancies should optimally offer pregnancy planning consultation and monitor all pregnancies in patients with SLE. Suggestions for treatment of SLE during pregnancy are also included in the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) recommendations. High-dose aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided in later pregnancy.
Only one population-based screening study13 of systemic lupus erythematosus was identified. This study reported a prevalence of 200 cases per 100,000 women (18 to 65 years of age) in England. One review14 estimated the overall U.S. prevalence of definite systemic lupus erythematosus plus incomplete systemic lupus erythematosus (disease meeting only some diagnostic requirements for systemic lupus erythematosus) to be 40 to 50 cases per 100,000 persons.
Because lupus can produce a variety of symptoms in different individuals, it may take some time for a physician to actually make the diagnosis. Often a doctor will say that lupus might be present, but that the current symptoms are insufficient to signify a firm diagnosis. In this event, s/he will likely monitor the patient’s symptoms, signs, and lab tests closely over time and have him/her return for regular visits.
Collagen is the major insoluble fibrous protein in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue. In fact, it is the single most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80 – 90 percent of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III. These collagen molecules pack together to form long thin fibrils of similar structure. Type IV, in contrast, forms a two-dimensional reticulum; several other types associate with fibril-type collagens, linking them to each other or to other matrix components. At one time it was thought that all collagens were secreted by fibroblasts in connective tissue, but we now know that numerous epithelial cells make certain types of collagens. The various collagens and the structures they form all serve the same purpose, to help tissues withstand stretching.
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help to mitigate inflammation. Although omega-3s have not been adequately studied in lupus, studies of the general population suggest that these essential fatty acids may also boost mood and improve cardiovascular health. Fish, nuts, and flax are excellent sources of omega-3s and can be easily incorporated into everyday meals. Try to avoid saturated fats, such as those in beef and fried snack foods, since these fats are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and may actually stimulate the immune system.
In 2009, an American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Task Force generated a quality indicator set.  In 2012, the ACR published “ Guidelines for the Screening, Diagnosis, Treatment and Monitoring of Lupus Nephritis in Adults,” as well as an evidence report for lupus nephritis. These and other guidelines are available at the ACR's Clinical Practice Guidelines Web site.
“NHS dieticians seem to specialise in those struggling to lose (rather than gain) weight in my experience. On my initial consultation I was given a booklet with advice based on eating a full English breakfast, then snacks like doughnuts and pork pies. My sons would be thrilled to get medical advice to eat like that! The nutritional supplements they offer taste extremely artificial to me. I can only eat a little and very slowly, so get to ‘savour’ every sip of it. I’m trying protein shakes I buy myself, which taste better, but just one of those is very filling.”
Some people find that excluding gluten from their diet gives them more energy. Don’t be tempted to start excluding a lot of foods from your diet; this could lead to serious deficiencies. Avoiding gluten or dairy products will not necessarily prevent flares; food “triggers” vary greatly from person to person. If you feel that you have problems processing certain foods, talk to your GP and ask for a referral to either a dietician or an allergy specialist within the NHS. There are commercial allergy tests available, but these are not always accurate and could cost you a lot of money but bring you no lasting benefit.
“I have given up sugar (except natural sugars), all soft drinks, pasta, chocolate, takeaways, and most processed foods/snacks. I have experienced a marked difference in energy levels and severity of flares, plus I have lost almost three stone in a year. I eat a simple diet, increase fruits/veg and I have found it has also helped with my stomach issues.”
A nonspecific laboratory test used as a marker of inflammation. In this test, the speed at which erythrocytes settle out of unclotted blood is measured. Blood to which an anticoagulant has been added is placed in a long, narrow tube, and the distance the red cells fall in 1 hr is the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Normally it is less than 10 mm/hr in men and slightly higher in women. The speed at which the cells settle depends on how many red blood cells clump together. Clumping is increased by the presence of acute-phase proteins released during inflammation.
Medical historians have theorized that people with porphyria (a disease that shares many symptoms with SLE) generated folklore stories of vampires and werewolves, due to the photosensitivity, scarring, hair growth, and porphyrin brownish-red stained teeth in severe recessive forms of porphyria (or combinations of the disorder, known as dual, homozygous, or compound heterozygous porphyrias).
Chemokines are low-molecular-weight proteins that stimulate recruitment of leukocytes. They are secondary pro-inflammatory mediators that are induced by primary pro-inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) or tumor necrosis factor (TNF). The physiologic importance of this family of mediators is derived from their specificity. Unlike the classic leukocyte chemo-attractants, which have little specificity, members of the chemokine family induce recruitment of well-defined leukocyte subsets. Thus, chemokine expression can account for the presence of different types of leukocytes observed in various normal or pathologic states.
Granulocytes and monocytes, collectively called myeloid cells, are differentiated descendants from common progenitors derived from hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. Commitment to either lineage of myeloid cells is controlled by distinct transcription factors followed by terminal differentiation in response to specific colony-stimulating factors and release into the circulation. Upon pathogen invasion, myeloid cells are rapidly recruited into local tissues via various chemokine receptors, where they are activated for phagocytosis as well as secretion of inflammatory cytokines, thereby playing major roles in innate immunity.
The term undifferentiated connective tissue diseases is used to define conditions characterized by the presence of signs and symptoms suggestive of a systemic autoimmune disease that do not satisfy the classificative criteria for defined connective tissue diseases (CTD) such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren’s syndrome (SS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and others. A small percentage of patients presenting with an undifferentiated profile will develop during the first year follow up of a full blown CTD, however an average of 75% will maintain an undifferentiated clinical course. These patients may be defined as having a stable undifferentiated connective tissue diseases (UCTD). The most characteristic symptoms of UCTD are represented by arthritis and arthralgias, Raynaud’s phenomenon, leukopenia, while neurological and kidney involvement are virtually absent. Eighty percent of these patients have a single autoantibody specificity, more frequently anti-Ro and anti-RNP antibodies. Stable UCTD are considered as distinct clinical entities and therefore it has been proposed to define those conditions as UCTD. Classificative criteria have also been proposed and a work to better define them is still under way.
There are assertions that race affects the rate of SLE. However, a 2010 review of studies which correlate race and SLE identified several sources of systematic and methodological error, indicating that the connection between race and SLE may be spurious. For example, studies show that social support is a modulating factor which buffers against SLE-related damage and maintains physiological functionality. Studies have not been conducted to determine whether people of different racial backgrounds receive differing levels of social support. If there is a difference, this could act as a confounding variable in studies correlating race and SLE. Another caveat to note when examining studies about SLE is that symptoms are often self-reported. This process introduces additional sources of methodological error. Studies have shown that self-reported data is affected by more than just the patients experience with the disease- social support, the level of helplessness, and abnormal illness-related behaviors also factor into a self-assessment. Additionally, other factors like the degree of social support that a person receives, socioeconomic status, health insurance, and access to care can contribute to an individual’s disease progression. Racial differences in lupus progression have not been found in studies that control for the socioeconomic status [SES] of participants. Studies that control for the SES of its participants have found that non-white people have more abrupt disease onset compared to white people and that their disease progresses more quickly. Non-white patients often report more hematological, serosal, neurological, and renal symptoms. However, the severity of symptoms and mortality are both similar in white and non-white patients. Studies that report different rates of disease progression in late-stage SLE are most likely reflecting differences in socioeconomic status and the corresponding access to care. The people who receive medical care have often accrued less disease-related damage and are less likely to be below the poverty line. Additional studies have found that education, marital status, occupation, and income create a social context which contributes to disease progression.
People with lupus are at great risk of contracting kidney disease. Kidney failure occurs in a minority of patients with lupus nephritis, despite advances in therapy. These patients must undergo dialysis. About one-third of patients who start dialysis during an acute lupus flare will be able to discontinue it within the first year. The remaining two-thirds, and those suffering gradual deterioration of kidney function over several years will require either continual dialysis for life or a kidney transplant.
Unfortunately, there are no widely accepted diagnostic criteria for SLE. However, many doctors use the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 11 common criteria. These criteria were designed to identify subjects for research studies, so they are very stringent. If you currently have four or more of these criteria or if you've had them in the past, chances are very high that you have SLE. However, having less than four doesn't rule out SLE. Again, additional testing may be necessary to inform a formal diagnosis. These criteria include:
The panel concluded that long-term IS agents during maintenance therapy prolong stable renal function, reduce proteinuria, extend renal survival and minimise the toxicity of GCs. AZA, CYC, MMF and CsA seem to be equivalent regarding efficacy but MMF and AZA have a better safety profile, particularly regarding gonadal toxicity and blood pressure control. We found very low certainty of the evidence for TAC as maintenance therapy, with studies mostly restricted to Asian populations.
These conditions may be treated with high-dose intravenous steroids and cytotoxic therapy such as cyclophosphamide. Strokes, acute myocardial infarctions, and pulmonary emboli occurring as complications of SLE are managed in the same way as they are in patients without SLE. In patients who present with fever, it may be necessary to limit immunosuppression to steroids and to empirically treat for an infection until culture results have been received.
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If you have lupus you may have noticed that certain foods tend to lead to lupus flares. A lupus flare is a period when the symptoms of lupus become more active. Kathleen LaPlant, of Cape Cod, Mass., was diagnosed with systemic lupus several years ago. "I have learned to be careful with foods that seem to trigger lupus symptoms. The biggest trigger for me has been fried foods. I have had to eliminate these from my diet," says LaPlant. It is hard to predict which foods may trigger a lupus flare, but you can start by paying close attention to your diet. If a particular type of food repeatedly causes problems, try taking it out of your diet and see if it makes a difference.
The neoclassical period began in 1851 when the skin disease which is now known as discoid lupus was documented by the French physician, Pierre Cazenave. Cazenave termed the illness lupus and added the word erythematosus to distinguish this disease from other illnesses that affected the skin except they were infectious. Cazenave observed the disease in several people and made very detailed notes to assist others in its diagnosis. He was one of the first to document that lupus affected adults from adolescence into the early thirties and that the facial rash is its most distinguishing feature.
Corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, can be helpful in reducing inflammation. Sometimes steroids are used for a few weeks until other slower medications can become effective. Because of their many side effects, the lowest possible dose should be used for the shortest length of time. Usually a corticosteroid is given by mouth as a pill or liquid. However, some forms can be given as an injection into the joint or muscle, or as an IV into a vein. It is important to slowly stop (taper off) steroids instead of stopping them suddenly.
Lupus is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can affect multiple parts of the body including the various organ systems. Doctors prescribe traditional pharmaceutical medications to manage symptoms and prevent flare ups of the disease that can cause more serious problems and complications. Many patients choose to supplement their pharmaceutical care with alternative treatments and lifestyle adjustments like using diet and exercise to minimize lupus symptoms. We discuss this further in our blog, Lupus/Chronic Illness: The Mind/Body Connection. There exists two major diets widely discussed in the autoimmune world. One is the anti-inflammatory diet and one is called the Paleo Diet.
Because the symptoms of lupus can mimic so many other health problems, you may need patience while waiting for a diagnosis. Your doctor must rule out a number of other illnesses before diagnosing lupus. You may need to see a number of specialists such as doctors who treat kidney problems (nephrologists), blood disorders (hematologists) or nervous system disorders (neurologists) depending on your symptoms to help with diagnosis and treatment.
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