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.
The 19th century's research into lupus continued with the work of Sir William Osler who, in 1895, published the first of his three papers about the internal complications of erythema exudativum multiforme. Not all the patient cases in his paper had SLE but Osler's work expanded the knowledge of systemic diseases and documented extensive and critical visceral complications for several diseases including lupus. Noting that many people with lupus had a disease that not only affected the skin but many other organs in the body as well, Osler added the word "systemic" to the term lupus erythematosus to distinguish this type of disease from discoid lupus erythematosus. Osler's second paper noted that reoccurrence is a special feature of the disease and that attacks can be sustained for months or even years. Further study of the disease led to a third paper, published in 1903, documenting afflictions such as arthritis, pneumonia, the inability to form coherent ideas, delirium, and central nervous system damage as all affecting patients diagnosed with SLE.
The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) is a bold new venture between the NIH, 10 biopharmaceutical companies and several non-profit organizations to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of new diagnostics and therapies for patients and reduce the time and cost of developing them.
Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) is a autoimmune disorder that causes overlapping features of three connective tissue disorders: lupus, scleroderma, and polymyositis. MCTD may also have features of rheumatoid arthritis. This condition is most often diagnosed in women in their 20’s and 30’s. Occasionally, children are affected. At this time the cause of this condition is unknown.
With variants known as discoid lupus, subacute cutaneous lupus, and systemic lupus erythematosus, lupus is one of several disorders of the immune system considered “autoimmune” in nature. These diseases occur when the immune system malfunctions and turns its infection-defense capabilities against the body, producing antibodies against healthy cells and tissues. These antibodies promote chronic inflammation and can damage organs and tissues. In lupus, these antibodies are known as antinuclear antibodies (ANA) because they target parts of the cell’s nucleus. Experts don’t yet fully understand all of the factors and triggers that cause inflammation and tissue damage in lupus, and research is ongoing.
SLE-associated skin manifestations can sometimes lead to scarring. In discoid lupus, only the skin is typically involved. The skin rash in discoid lupus often is found on the face and scalp. It usually is red and may have raised borders. Discoid lupus rashes are usually painless and do not itch, but scarring can cause permanent hair loss (alopecia). Over time, 5%-10% of those with discoid lupus may develop SLE.
Most people who have SLE have low levels of vitamin D and should take a vitamin D supplement regularly. Vitamin D is essential for proper function of the immune system and several studies have shown that people who have more severe lupus tend to have lower levels of vitamin D compared to those who have milder disease. It is advised to talk with your consultant or GP about your vitamin D levels as you may already be prescribed calcium supplements which may contain vitamin D. Some dietary sources of vitamin D can be found HERE. It is important to bear in mind that most vitamin D is usually synthesised from sunlight on the skin, but with lupus you should be protecting yourself from exposure to UV.
“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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