Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that develops when the immune system malfunctions and begins to recognize healthy cells and tissues as “foreign invaders.” In response, the immune system triggers a chemical reaction, releasing antibodies that begin attacking these healthy tissues and destroying them. While some autoimmune diseases attack one type of tissue or organs, in lupus the attacks are widespread and may involve the joints, skin, lungs, heart, kidneys and brain.
The cause of lupus is unknown, but research shows the disease is more likely to occur in people with relatives who also have it, suggesting a genetic component. Lupus symptoms can also be triggered by stress, disease, certain medications – even exposure to sunlight.
Lupus can cause an array of symptoms, but very few people experience all of them. The most common symptoms include:
rash, often on the cheeks and nose
inflamed, painful joints
memory problems or difficulty focusing
unusual loss of hair
circulation issues causing pale or purplish toes or fingers and coolness
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose, partly because it doesn't always cause severe symptoms, and partly because the symptoms it does cause can also be caused by other diseases and disorders. Providing a detailed medical history and a description of all your symptoms is the best way to help your healthcare provider arrive at the proper diagnosis. Lab tests can also help rule out other possible causes.
Treatment depends on the symptoms you're experiencing. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed, as well topical creams for rashes. Corticosteroids, anti-malarial drugs and monoclonal antibodies are also commonly prescribed. Your treatment will be customized specifically for your symptoms.
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