Lupus is one of the major autoimmune diseases. These diseases appear when the body's defense system (the immune system) is "confused" and does not differentiate between harmful particles (viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances called antigens) and the cells or tissues themselves, and produces antibodies against of himself". These antibodies are called "autoantibodies" and are responsible for the disease.
According to the EPISER study conducted by the Spanish Society of Rheumatology (SER), there are about 10 cases of lupus per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain.
Causes of Lupus
The cause of systemic lupus erythematosus is still unknown today . But it is known that there is a set of factors, studied in Rheumatology , that play a role in its appearance:
- Genetic type factors. They appear more frequently in case of having certain genetic markers and when there are family antecedents.
- Environmental factors (viral agents). They provoke the alteration of the immune system giving rise to the appearance of autoantibodies. In addition, ultraviolet light and some medications can trigger outbreaks of disease.
Lupus affects mainly women (9 out of 10 people), and certain ethnic groups (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians). It can appear at any age, but most often it starts in youth, so early diagnosis is extremely important.
Lupus may be localized exclusively on the skin ("cutaneous lupus"), but it often affects many organs or systems (skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs) simultaneously: it is called "systemic lupus erythematosus". It can cause inflammation in the joints (arthritis), but also in other organs (pleuritis, pericarditis), and may cause less specific manifestations such as fever, tiredness, oral thrush or hair loss (alopecia).
It is a chronic disease , in which the organic affection persists for a long period of time and even the whole life. It usually goes through outbreaks or periods of disease activity, while other periods are inactivity or remission.
The difficulty of diagnosing lupus
The manifestations of lupus are very varied, it can be said that no two patients with the same symptoms and each person has a different pattern of disease. That makes the diagnosis sometimes difficult.
That is why it is very important that, in the face of the suspicion of having this disease, the patient is referred to or sent to the rheumatologist, as a medical specialist of this type of diseases. The diagnosis is based on the presence of suggestive clinical manifestations and is completed by performing specific analytics in search of autoantibodies, alterations in the blood (decrease in numbers of lymphocytes, platelets or red blood cells), proteins in urine and, if necessary , biopsy of certain organs such as the kidney.
Treatment of lupus
There is no single treatment for lupus: the type of drugs to be used depends on the manifestations that occur. Therefore, it can vary greatly from one patient to another, and even in the same patient at different times of the disease.
The treatment usually received by all patients are the so-called antimalarial or antimalarial drugs because of their demonstrated long-term benefit in keeping the disease inactive. It is also a general measure for all to avoid sun exposure, being recommended the use of photoprotectors.
Lupus Prevention Is It Possible?
There is no way to prevent the onset of the disease. But if early diagnosis and treatment and surveillance to detect outbreaks of activity are essential, thus avoiding serious complications. It is important to note that today the vast majority of patients can develop a virtually normal life with minimal side effects, despite having to routinely take treatments on a chronic basis.