Everything you need to know about Lupus, chronic autoimmune disease

Written by: Dr.Prof. Juan Jiménez Alonso
Edited by: Patricia Fernández Ramos

Lupus is a disease that belongs to the group of autoimmune diseases, in which, for unknown reasons, part of the defenses of the human being attack the body itself.

The most common types of lupus are:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus: it is the most important form of lupus, since it can affect practically any organ of the human being. As in chronic cutaneous lupus, its causes are unknown, although it is known that there is a familial genetic predisposition, on which an external agent acts, still to be discovered, producing an immunological alteration, by which part of the defenses, in Form of autoantibodies, are directed against cells and tissues of the human being itself.
  • Chronic cutaneous lupus: affects exclusively the skin and exceptionally evolves to systemic lupus erythematosus. It is of unknown cause and is usually diagnosed and treated by dermatologist specialists, sometimes with the collaboration of internists, and sometimes a biopsy of the skin is required to confirm the process.
  • Drug induced lupus: among the drugs that cause it are some antiarrhythmic drugs, antibiotics and antiepileptics, which can cause a systemic lupus erythematosus, but more benign; These symptoms disappear after suspending the causative drug.
  • Neonatal lupus: a form of transient lupus that affects some newborns of mothers affected by systemic lupus erythematosus and carriers of the SSA / Ro or SSB / La antibody; These antibodies, pass through the placenta, and can produce a urticarial reaction in the skin in the newborn, which disappears without leaving any kind of sequelae.


Systemic lupus erythematosus, more common in young women

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a disease that mainly affects women of childbearing age and is affected by approximately one in 1500-2000 people. It is a chronic disease that evolves by outbreaks, which alternate with periods of inactivity.

Triggers of more frequent lupus outbreaks are exposure to unprotected sunlight, infections, failure to properly treat and stress.


Symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus

The most frequent symptoms are fever, tiredness, rashes of a very different type on the skin, the most well-known erythema in butterfly wings on the face, and musculoskeletal pain.

Inflammation of the pleura or pericardium, sores in the mouth and anemia, or a decrease in white blood cells or platelets. Renal, cardiopulmonary or nervous system complications are less frequent, but they are more important and require more aggressive treatment.

It should also be borne in mind that patients with lupus often suffer from infectious processes and cardiovascular complications.

Lupus symptoms


Diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

The diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is based on the clinical history and physical examination of the patient, as well as the determination of a general blood and urine analysis, complement levels C3 and C4, and autoantibodies in blood, mainly antinuclear antibodies, Native anti-DNA antibodies and anti-SM antibodies. With these tests, the differential diagnosis with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome or mixed connective tissue disease, infectious or neoplastic diseases, with which lupus can be confused, is usually done well.

Once the diagnosis of lupus has been correctly made, follow-up should be done by a specialist doctor who is knowledgeable and experienced in this disease, usually an internist or rheumatologist, although sometimes the help of other specialists such as dermatologists, nephrologists, etc. is necessary.. , Depending on the severity of the affected organ.


Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

The treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus is based fundamentally on general measures, to promote healthy lifestyles and to have an ideal weight, the use of creams of protection against the ultraviolet rays, to avoid the stress, to avoid the tobacco and the alcohol abuse, As well as having adequate rest and drugs.

The most important drugs are antimalarial / hydroxychloroquine and corticosteroids, although the latter should be avoided as much as possible or moderate its use. For discomfort such as febrile or musculoskeletal pain, you can take anti-inflammatories, although it is important not to abuse them. For complications of major organs, we have drugs known as immunosuppressants.

Currently there is a high level of research on new drugs for lupus, which interfere with more specific molecules of immunity, so it is foreseeable that we will have in the future of potent and less aggressive drugs.


Life of the patient with lupus

The prognosis of patients with lupus has improved dramatically in recent years, contributing to better knowledge of the disease, better management of infections and medications, and the help and collaboration of lupus patients' associations , Which are very important.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

By Dr.Prof. Juan Jiménez Alonso
Internal Medicine

Prof. Juan Jiménez Alonso is a benchmark in Internal Medicine at national and international level, which has published more than 400 medical articles in national and international scientific journals and over 500 presentations and participation in national and international seminars and medical conferences. He is a reviewer for numerous medical journals, and has directed 33 doctoral dissertations and 4 theses of degree. He has received numerous awards and national and international awards. He is Professor of Internal Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Granada and an expert on Autoimmune Disease and Lupus. During his career he has held senior positions, such as Chief of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Virgen de las Nieves in Granada since 1985 and has coordinated medical research groups.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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