Patient 1: It started in the winter when my fingers would turn blue in the cold and I had pain in my hips, knees, shoulders, and hands.
Patient 2: I worked out all the time at the gym and I thought maybe I just needed to slow down a little, so I waited before seeing a doctor.
Patient 3: I had high fevers and my joints were stiff, my hands were red and swollen, and it hurt to grab the steering wheel when I drove the car.
Patient 2: Although I would get a good night’s sleep, I woke up still not feeling rested and my joints hurt all the time.
Patient 3: I felt unbearable pain and ended up in the Emergency Room.
Patient 1: At first the doctors gave me anti-inflammatories thinking I had arthritis, but I found out that I have lupus. I didn’t even know what lupus was.
Speaker: Did you know that there are over 1.5 million Americans living with lupus? Even so, many people haven’t heard of the disease or if they have they’re not sure what it is and what can be done to treat it. That’s what we’ll be talking about in this program.
Lupus is a chronic condition of the immune system. The immune system is your body’s natural defense against harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. It is a complex system with many ways of fighting off attacks. But lupus, for reasons we do not fully understand, causes the immune system to attack itself. This is called an autoimmune condition.
When this occurs in multiple parts of the body, it is called systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE. SLE is the most common form of lupus and will be the emphasis of this program, but other forms of the disease exist. Some people with only skin involvement have cutaneous lupus which is sometimes called discoid lupus. Approximately 10 percent of people who have cutaneous lupus will develop SLE. In drug-induced lupus, some drugs have been reported to cause lupus-like symptoms in a small number of people. These symptoms disappear when the medication is stopped.
When SLE causes the immune system to attack itself, you might experience many different symptoms. Some of these are Painful or swollen joints. Sores in your mouth or on your skin that do not heal. Rash across your nose and cheeks. A fever of over 100° F for several days. Sensitivity to sun or light that causes a skin rash to appear or get worse. Fatigue and weakness for days or weeks at a time, even after plenty of sleep. Or sudden, unexplained hair loss.
As you learn about the problems that can occur in lupus, it is important to remember that no two people with lupus are exactly alike. Just because someone else with lupus has kidney issues does not mean you will have problems with your kidneys now or in the future. The symptoms and frequency of symptoms can be different in each person and can range from mild to severe. Many of the symptoms we just mentioned are found in other common conditions, which is why it can be difficult to diagnose people with lupus.
Blood tests are helpful in detecting lupus, but there is no single test to identify this disease. If your doctor suspects you may have lupus, you may be referred to a rheumatologist. Rheumatologists specialize in treating conditions like lupus and can often confirm your diagnosis. Keep in mind, sometimes several visits are required before enough information is gathered to make an accurate diagnosis.
Lupus can affect people of any age or sex. However, 9 out of 10 people with lupus are women and most of those develop lupus between the ages of 15 and 45. Also, certain racial and ethnic groups are at higher risk for developing lupus. This includes Americans with African, Asian, or Hispanic ancestry as well as certain Native American tribes.