What is lupus



by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit


Information from the Arthritis Foundation

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal tissue. This attack results in inflammation and symptoms.

In lupus, the immune system fights the body itself (Auto=self).

Inflammation is a protective process our body uses when tissues are injured. Inflammation helps to eliminate a foreign body or organism (virus, bacteria) and prevent further injury. Signs of inflammation include; swelling, redness, pain and warmth. If the signs of inflammation are long lasting, as they can be in lupus, then damage to the tissues can occur and normal function is impaired.

The immune system is designed to protect and defend the body from foreign intruders (bacteria, viruses). You can think of it like an army for your body. It contains several different types of cells, some of which function like "soldiers" and are constantly on patrol looking for any foreign invaders. When they spot one, they take action, and eliminate the intruder. In lupus, for some reason and we don't know why, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between a foreign intruder and a person's own normal tissues and cells. So, in essence, the "soldiers" mistakenly identify the person's own normal cells as foreign (antigens), and then take action to eliminate them. Part of their response is to bring antibodies to the site that then attach to antigens (anything that the immune system recognizes as non-self or foreign) and form immune complexes. These immune complexes help to set in motion a series of events that result in inflammation at the site. These immune complexes may travel through the circulation and lodge in distant tissues and cause inflammation there.

Lupus can occur at any age, and in either sex. Nine out of ten people with lupus are women. During the childbearing years (ages 15-44) lupus strikes women 10-15 times more frequently than men.

People of all races can have lupus; however, African American women have a three times higher incidence (number of new cases) and mortality than Caucasian women. They tend to develop the disease at a younger age and to develop more serious complications. Lupus is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent.

Symptoms of lupus vary widely depending on the individual case and the form of lupus present. Most people with lupus do not experience all of these symptoms.

• Achy or swollen joints
• Persistent fever over 100 degrees
• Prolonged, extreme fatigue
• Skin rashes, including a butterfly shaped rash across the cheeks and nose
• Pain in the chest on deep breathing
• Anemia
• Excessive protein in the urine
• Sensitivity to sun or ultraviolet light
• Hair loss
• Abnormal blood clotting problems
• Fingers turning white and/or blue in the cold
• Seizures
• Mouth or nose ulcers lasting longer than two weeks

Because lupus can be serious, particularly if it affects the kidneys or brain, powerful immunosuppressive drugs are often used in the management of the disease.




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