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by Hillary Ross

Lupus, a condition in which the body's immune system produces antibodies against connective tissue, is a chronic autoimmune system disease. Lupus goes through stages of remission and flare-ups. [The] majority of those suffering from lupus range in age from 20 to 35. Lupus strikes women ninety percent more often than men. African-Americans are three times more likely to contract lupus as opposed to caucasians.

No specific cause has been isolated for lupus at this current date. Research has led some to believe that a combination of genetic, hormonal, and immunologic factors contribute to contacting lupus. Over-exposure to sunlight, viral and bacterial infections and severe emotional stress tend to trigger flare-ups. One of the most recent advances in the cause of lupus was a study done involving 43 families containing at least two siblings with lupus. Researchers studies the dna samples and noticed a small region on chromosome one that may contain a lupus gene. This study was reported in the February 15 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

There are two kinds of lupus, discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Discoid lupus erythematosus affects the skin as well as vital organs and is far more serious. Systemic lupus erythematosus can result in a scaly, butterfly-shaped rash that appears over the bridge of the nose and the cheeks and can scar. Inflammation and damage to the connective tissue in joints, muscles, skin, the membranes surrounding the lungs, the heart the kidneys, and the brain are also caused by systemic lupus erythematosus. Systemic lupus erythematosus can also result in kidney disease.

One major symptom of lupus is profound fatigue, which causes difficulties when doctors are diagnosing lupus because it could also be chronic fatigue syndrome. Symptoms also include a low grade fever, severe muscle cramps, joint pain, skin rashes on the face or body, extreme sun sensitivity, weight loss, mental confusion, and chest pain upon inhaling deeply. Nose, mouth, or throat ulcers are also symptoms of lupus as well as enlarged lymph nodes, poor circulation in the fingers and toes, bald patches, discolored urine, frequently blocked urination, and shortness of breath. Lupus may also cause lesions. All of these symptoms can result in sleeping problems.

To diagnose lupus, doctors must first rule out possibilities  of chronic fatigue syndrome, mononucleosis, and autoimmune disorders other than lupus. Doctors perform tests to determine whether the patient has lupus. These tests include taking a complete blood count, platelet count, and serum electrophoresis, which indicates the levels of white blood cells and plasma proteins.

Lupus is not a condition in which one constantly suffers from its symptoms. Lupus goes through unpredictable remissions and flare-ups. These flare-ups may be mild or debilitating. During flare-ups, the symptoms affect some more severely than others. For instance, everyday tasks become more difficult when simple tasks such as getting dressed cause the person to become winded from having shortness of breath.

Treatment for lupus depends upon the severity of the condition. In milder cases of lupus taking a nosteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin can ease joint pain. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and fevers for lupus sufferers. Antidepressants and mild antianxiety drugs can alleviate sleeping problems that accompany lupus. For severe cases of lupus, cyclophosphamides may be taken to subdue the immune system. The skin rashes caused by lupus can be treated with over-the-counter corticosteroid creams and lesions may require prescription fluorinated steroid creams or injections of triamcinolone. Some lupus sufferers, after consulting specialists, seek acupuncture, chinese herbs, and various forms of body works to ease the symptoms of lupus, but there are no cures.


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