Understanding Lupus: Symptoms and Treatments

Lupus erythematosus is an inflammatory disorder, in which the individual’s immune system begins to attack itself. The disease can cause a skin disorder, joint problems and a variety of other conditions that undermine the health and wellbeing of the individual. Lupus appears to be more common in women and in African-Americans, Asian and Hispanics. Lupus generally appears when the person is between the ages of 15 and 40. The symptoms of lupus are similar to other diseases, which can make diagnosing this condition more difficult.

Warning Signs of Lupus

Symptoms of Lupus erythematosus can affect each person differently, depending on the body system that is affected. Common symptoms include:

Lupus symptoms
  • Skin lesions that worsen with exposure to the sun
  • Butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Edema and swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Confusion and/or memory loss
  • Dry eyes

Causes of Lupus

Research indicates that lupus is caused by disturbances in the body’s immune system function. It appears to be influenced by both genetics and environment. Studies suggest risks for lupus include:

  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Some types of medications, such as blood pressure drugs, antibiotics or anti-seizure drugs
  • Being in one of the at-risk groups

Treatments for Lupus

Although there is no cure for lupus, a treatment plan can include a variety of drugs that help to manage symptoms and improve quality of life:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDSs) can help to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Corticosteroid medications help to reduce swelling and inflammation throughout the body
  • Antimalarial drugs to control skin problems and prevent organ damage
  • Immunosuppressant medications to suppress immune system reactions
  • Lifestyle changes, such as increased exercise, more time to rest and a diet that includes more fruits, vegetables and whole grains can be helpful for improving general health
  • Supplements such as vitamin D, fish oil and DHEA have been found to provide relief for some individuals

Individuals with lupus can achieve significant relief from symptoms with consistent medical treatment. Although getting a good diagnosis of lupus is often challenging, once a treatment plan is initiated, patients can resume their normal activities with fewer of the characteristic symptoms.