A one-celled organism without a true nucleus or cell organelles, belonging to the kingdom Procaryotae (Monera). The cytoplasm is surrounded by a rigid cell wall composed of carbohydrates and other chemicals that provide the basis for the Gram stain. Some bacteria produce a polysaccharide or polypeptide capsule, which inhibits phagocytosis by white blood cells. Bacteria synthesize DNA, RNA, and proteins, and they can reproduce independently but may need a host to provide food and a favorable environment. Millions of nonpathogenic bacteria live on human skin and mucous membranes; these are called normal flora. Bacteria that cause disease are called pathogens.
If you are a young woman with lupus and wish to have a baby, carefully plan your pregnancy. With your doctor’s guidance, time your pregnancy for when your lupus activity is low. While pregnant, avoid medications that can harm your baby. These include cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, and mycophenolate mofetil. If you must take any of these medicines, or your disease is very active, use birth control. For more information, see Pregnancy and Rheumatic Disease.
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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly known as "lupus," is an autoimmune illness. The immune system, which normally protects the body from foreign invaders and infection, malfunctions and instead attacks a person's own healthy body tissues. Its cause is unknown, but most scientists believe that genetics, combined with outside triggers (such as infections, medications or other environmental factors) lead people to develop lupus. Lupus is a lifelong condition, but symptoms tend to cycle in alternate periods of "flares" (or "flares-ups") and remissions. Lupus affects women much more than men. There is no known cure, but numerous treatments are available.
Joints that are red, warm, tender, and swollen may signal lupus. Aching and stiffness alone aren’t enough; the joints have to be affected by arthritis and these other "cardinal signs of inflammation," says Michael Belmont, MD, director of the lupus clinic at Bellevue Hospital and medical director at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City.
Researchers have made great progress in identifying people at-risk for lupus and the molecular markers (something found in cells that can predict lupus flares) that appear before the onset of symptoms. From these advances, scientists hope to generate early-intervention or even disease-prevention strategies. For people with established lupus, research is focused on designing new clinical trials that test drug candidates, which, if successful, could be combined with existing therapies. The Lupus Research Alliance is funding the most innovative research in the world, with the hope of finding better diagnostics, improved treatment and, eventually, a cure.
Kidney involvement in people with lupus is potentially life threatening and may occur in up to half of lupus patients. Kidney problems may become apparent when lupus patients feel ill with arthritis, have a rash, fever and weight loss. Less often, kidney disease may occur when there are no other symptoms of lupus. Kidney disease itself usually does not produce symptoms until it is in the advanced stages. It is important that kidney disease be diagnosed early and treated appropriately. The earliest signs of kidney disease are apparent from a urinalysis.
An inflammatory response (inflammation) occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. The damaged cells release chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins. These chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. This helps isolate the foreign substance from further contact with body tissues.
Neuropsychiatric syndromes can result when SLE affects the central or peripheral nervous system. The American College of Rheumatology defines 19 neuropsychiatric syndromes in systemic lupus erythematosus. The diagnosis of neuropsychiatric syndromes concurrent with SLE (now termed as NPSLE), is one of the most difficult challenges in medicine, because it can involve so many different patterns of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for signs of infectious disease or stroke.
Aseptic meningitis is a disease caused by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. Unlike other forms of meningitis, aseptic meningitis is not caused by infection and cannot be spread person-to-person. Instead it can be caused by lupus, cancers, certain drugs, head injury, and brain surgery, among others. Meningitis is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. It is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (sensitivity to light), and altered mental status (confusion).
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which the small blood vessels in the fingers and toes spasm, limiting circulation, says Dr. Kaplan. People with Raynaud’s are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures and, in those conditions, will often notice a loss of circulation and loss of color in their digits much more quickly than people without the condition. Raynaud’s affects about a third of people with lupus and can cause color loss in the fingers and toes, which first turn blue, followed by red. (9)
Corticosteroids and immune suppressants: Patients with serious or life-threatening problems such as kidney inflammation, lung or heart involvement, and central nervous system symptoms need more “aggressive” (stronger) treatment. This may include high-dose corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone and others) and drugs that suppress the immune system. Immune suppressants include azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). Recently mycophenolate mofetil has been used to treat severe kidney disease in lupus – referred to as lupus nephritis.
In healthy conditions, apoptotic lymphocytes are removed in germinal centers (GC) by specialized phagocytes, the tingible body macrophages (TBM), which is why no free apoptotic and potential autoantigenic material can be seen. In some people with SLE, accumulation of apoptotic debris can be observed in GC because of an ineffective clearance of apoptotic cells. In close proximity to TBM, follicular dendritic cells (FDC) are localised in GC, which attach antigen material to their surface and, in contrast to bone marrow-derived DC, neither take it up nor present it via MHC molecules.
In addition to prescribing medications, doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes to help manage lupus. These may include avoidance of sun exposure and paying more attention to managing stress to prevent lupus flares (periods of time when symptoms become problematic). People with lupus should also avoid smoking to help with heart and lung health, Kramer says.
Antinuclear antibody (ANA) testing and anti-extractable nuclear antigen (anti-ENA) form the mainstay of serologic testing for SLE. Several techniques are used to detect ANAs. Clinically the most widely used method is indirect immunofluorescence (IF). The pattern of fluorescence suggests the type of antibody present in the people's serum. Direct immunofluorescence can detect deposits of immunoglobulins and complement proteins in the people's skin. When skin not exposed to the sun is tested, a positive direct IF (the so-called lupus band test) is an evidence of systemic lupus erythematosus.
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.
And it’s important to point out that people who are initially diagnosed with systemic lupus (or SLE) can also get lupus rashes. One of the common rashes that occurs in people with systemic lupus is malar rash. It’s alternatively called a butterfly rash, and it spreads across the bridge of the nose and cheeks and is telltale sign of the disease because its appearance is so distinctive, Caricchio says. A malar rash can be flat or raised. While it usually isn’t painful, it can itch and burn. (3) And the rash can show up on other parts of the body, including the arms, legs, and torso.
The cause of lupus remains unknown, but there is solid evidence that genetics, epigenetics (changes in chromosomes that affect gene activity), environmental factors, viruses and infections play a role. Further study of these variables is expected to improve our understanding of causes, which should lead to improved diagnosis, prognosis, prevention, and treatment.
The epicenter of where inflammation begins is considered to be the microbiome. The human microbiome is a very complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that perform essential functions like absorbing nutrients, producing hormones, and defending us from microbes and environmental toxins. These bacteria are constantly in flux throughout our lives, adapting to the foods we eat, the quality of our sleep, the amount of bacteria or chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the level of emotional stress we deal with.
The aim of this review is to provide an up-to-date overview of treatment approaches for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), highlighting the multiplicity and heterogeneity of clinical symptoms that underlie therapeutic decisions. Discussion will focus on the spectrum of currently available therapies, their mechanisms and associated side-effects. Finally, recent developments with biologic treatments including rituximab, epratuzumab, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, and belimumab, will be discussed.
Vasculitis, antiphospholipid antibodies, and renal failure are commonly found in patients with lupus; these conditions greatly increase the risk of developing pulmonary emboli. The diagnosis in a patient with shortness of breath, hemoptysis, and pleuritic chest pain is commonly made with ventilation-perfusion scans or computed tomography (CT) angiography. The CT angiogram demonstrates a filling defect in the left anterior segmental artery (arrow).
Lupus is treated by internal medicine subspecialists called rheumatologists. Depending on whether or not specific organs are targeted, other health specialists who can be involved in the care of patients with lupus include dermatologists, nephrologists, hematologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, and neurologists. It's not uncommon that a team of such physicians is coordinated by the treating rheumatologist together with the primary care doctor.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc): Similar symptoms between SSc and lupus are reflux and Raynaud's disease (when your fingers turn blue or white with cold). One difference between SSc and lupus is that anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Smith (Sm) antibodies, which are linked to lupus, don't usually occur in SSc. Another differentiator is that people with SSc often have antibodies to an antigen called Scl-70 (topoisomerase I) or antibodies to centromere proteins.
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For each of the subheadings listed below, the panel considered interventions based on experience, availability, affordability and a stepwise therapeutic approach of the different alternatives. Standard of care (SOC) was defined as the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and, if clinically indicated, low-dose glucocorticoids (GC) (prednisone ≤7.5 mg or equivalent for the shortest time).24 Chloroquine remains an alternative for some of the Latin American countries where HCQ is not available and careful monitoring of eye side effect is recommended. Overarching principles are shown in box 1. Tables summarising the evidence that was considered in the process are shown in online supplementary tables in https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.bg8452h.
Landmark research has shown clearly that oral contraceptives do not increase the rate of flares of systemic lupus erythematosus. This important finding is opposite to what has been thought for years. Now we can reassure women with lupus that if they take birth-control pills, they are not increasing their risk for lupus flares. Note: Birth-control pills or any estrogen medications are still be avoided by women who are at increased risk of blood clotting, such as women with lupus who have phospholipid antibodies (including cardiolipin antibody and lupus anticoagulant).
“There’s no specific diet for lupus, but the Mediterranean-style diet comes close to what’s most ideal," says Sotiria Everett, RD, a clinical assistant professor in the department of family, population, and preventive medicine at Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York. "You want to eat a diet that’s low in fat and sugar and has lots of fruits and vegetables. You should get some of your protein from fish and eat lots of beans and legumes because they’re high in fiber, vitamin B, and iron."
ANA = antinuclear antibody; CNS = central nervous system; ds-DNA = double-stranded DNA; ELISA = enzyme-linked immunoassay; ENA = extractable nuclear antigen; Ig = immunoglobulin; p-ANCA = perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody; RBCs = red blood cells; RNP = ribonucleic protein; SLE = systemic lupus erythematosus; Sm = Smith; SSA = Sjögren syndrome A; SSB = Sjögren syndrome B.
People with SLE need more rest during periods of active disease. Researchers have reported that poor sleep quality was a significant factor in developing fatigue in people with SLE. These reports emphasize the importance for people and physicians to address sleep quality and the effect of underlying depression, lack of exercise, and self-care coping strategies on overall health. During these periods, carefully prescribed exercise is still important to maintain muscle tone and range of motion in the joints.
Certain foods, including garlic and alfalfa sprouts, should be avoided by people with lupus. [For a more complete list of items to be avoided, please see the article “Things to Avoided” in the Lupus 101 section.] Recently controversy has also arisen over whether aspartame induces lupus. However, scientists have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that aspartame causes lupus.
While the onset and persistence of SLE can show disparities between genders, socioeconomic status also plays a major role. Women with SLE and of lower socioeconomic status have been shown to have higher depression scores, higher body mass index, and more restricted access to medical care than women of higher socioeconomic statuses with the illness. People with SLE had more self-reported anxiety and depression scores if they were from a lower socioeconomic status.
The mechanism by which foreign antigens are taken into antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and broken up. Part of the antigen is then displayed (presented) on the surface of the APC next to a histocompatibility or self-antigen, activating T lymphocytes and cell-mediated immunity. T lymphocytes are unable to recognize or respond to most antigens without APC assistance.
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.
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.
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) vaccination recommendations for rheumatic diseases, including lupus, advocate baseline assessment and delivery of nonlive vaccines during stable disease.  Particularly important is immunization against encapsulated organisms, such as meningococcal vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine, and routine Haemophilus influenzae childhood vaccination. Annual influenza vaccine is also encouraged.
The CBC is among the most common blood tests performed in the clinical laboratory and aids in the diagnosis of anemia and erythrocytosis; bleeding and the repletion of blood cells by transfusion, thrombocytopenia and thrombocytosis; and infections and leukemias. Blood is obtained for the test from venipuncture or aspiration from an indwelling vascular access or port. It is taken to the laboratory in a tube that contains the anticoagulant ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).
Most patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (unless they’re otherwise advised by their rheumatologist) should be taking an oral antimalarial drug — medications originally used to prevent a malaria infection, but that have been found to help with lupus symptoms, says Dr. Kramer. The antimalarial hydroxychloroquine helps prevent lupus flares, minimizes joint inflammation, and controls fever, fatigue, pleurisy (inflammation of the sac surrounding the lungs), and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). The drug is also “the backbone of therapy” for most skin rashes associated with lupus, says Kramer. Mouth sores may also be alleviated with this drug. Chloroquine and quinacrine are other antimalarials drugs used to treat lupus. (3)
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