SLE is undoubtedly a potentially serious illness with involvement of numerous organ systems. However, it is important to recognize that most people with SLE lead full, active, and healthy lives. Periodic increases in disease activity (flares) can usually be managed by varying medications. Since ultraviolet light can precipitate and worsen flares, people with systemic lupus should avoid sun exposure. Sunscreens and clothing covering the extremities can be helpful. Abruptly stopping medications, especially corticosteroids, can also cause flares and should be avoided. People with SLE are at increased risk of infections as SLE-related complications, especially if they are taking corticosteroids or immunosuppressive medications. Therefore, any unexpected fever should be reported to medical professionals and evaluated.
The lupus erythematosus (LE) cell test was commonly used for diagnosis, but it is no longer used because the LE cells are only found in 50–75% of SLE cases, and they are also found in some people with rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and drug sensitivities. Because of this, the LE cell test is now performed only rarely and is mostly of historical significance.
A general, imprecise, colloquial, and somewhat old-fashioned term for acute and chronic conditions marked by inflammation, muscle soreness and stiffness, and pain in joints and associated structures. It includes inflammatory arthritis (infectious, rheumatoid, gouty), arthritis due to rheumatic fever or trauma, degenerative joint disease, neurogenic arthropathy, hydroarthrosis, myositis, bursitis, and fibromyalgia.
The most commonly sought medical attention is for joint pain, with the small joints of the hand and wrist usually affected, although all joints are at risk. More than 90 percent of those affected will experience joint or muscle pain at some time during the course of their illness. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, lupus arthritis is less disabling and usually does not cause severe destruction of the joints. Fewer than ten percent of people with lupus arthritis will develop deformities of the hands and feet. People with SLE are at particular risk of developing osteoarticular tuberculosis.
To help doctors diagnose lupus, this list of 11 common criteria, or measures, was developed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). ACR is a professional association of rheumatologists. Rheumatologists are the doctors who specialize in treating diseases of the joints and muscles, like lupus. If you have at least four of the criteria on the list, either at the present time or at some time in the past, there is a strong chance that you have lupus.
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.
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.
Lupus is diagnosed when a person has several features of the disease (including symptoms, findings on examination, and blood test abnormalities). The American College of Rheumatology has devised criteria to assist doctors in making the correct diagnosis of lupus. A person should have at least four of the following 11 criteria, either at the same time or one after the other, to be classified as having lupus. These criteria include:
Often, people with lupus experience weight loss or gain due to loss of appetite, unhealthy dietary habits, or decreased energy and mobility. If you experience weight loss or loss of appetite, talk to your doctor. S/he can help you determine the cause of the problem and take strides to correct it. Weight gain can be caused by many factors, including reduced activity levels and overeating due to steroid use or increased stress. However, remember that women with lupus between the ages of 35 and 44 experience a risk of heat attack that is 50x that of the normal population. Therefore, it is very important that you try to stick to a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fats. A low-sodium diet is also essential for people suffering from high blood pressure (above 120/80 mmHg for people with lupus) and kidney disease.
Competing interests LBF, BAPE and OAM have been speakers for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). JCTB has received research grants from GSK. RMX, ON and JFM have received support grants for meetings from GSK. JAGP has been a lecturer for Roche. ERS has received research grants and has been a lecturer for Roche. JFM has been a clinical researcher for Anthera. MHC has received research grants from Roche and is an advisor for Eli Lilly.
Next, a doctor will usually prescribe a corticosteroid such as prednisone, which has a variety of unpleasant and dangerous side effects. Long term prednisone therapy can cause muscle wasting and osteoporosis, and those side effects require additional monitoring and medication. If the steroids stop controlling the symptoms, then a host of other serious medications are prescribed that either modulate or suppress the immune system as a whole. Plaquenil and belimumab (Benlysta) are some of the drugs used, and they have very harsh side effects including hair loss, muscle atrophy, blood disorders and increased susceptibility to infections.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) revealed regions of linkage that were found on most chromosomes. These studies are useful in identifying the genes that may be responsible for complex diseases such as SLE. Candidate gene loci implicated with SLE include multiple alleles from the HLA region, Fc-gamma receptor, and complement component system. However, association does not prove that a specific form of a gene is responsible for the disease, as there may be other polymorphisms in the region that have a greater association effect. However, because the biological role of most genes are not completely understood, it can be difficult to attribute phenotypic traits to certain genetic polymorphisms. Since SLE is associated with so many genetic regions, it is likely an oligogenic trait, meaning that there are several genes that control susceptibility to the disease. Further complicating our understanding is the association of certain linkages with various ethnic groups.
Corticosteroids. Prednisone and other types of corticosteroids can counter the inflammation of lupus. High doses of steroids such as methylprednisolone (A-Methapred, Medrol) are often used to control serious disease that involves the kidneys and brain. Side effects include weight gain, easy bruising, thinning bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection. The risk of side effects increases with higher doses and longer term therapy.
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Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
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