Skip To My Lupus, Inc. in Columbia, SC is dedicated, driven and determined towards a single cause: to help as many individuals suffering from lupus as possible with proper supportive care and services such as prescription assistance, physician referrals and blood drives.
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems, including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs.
Lupus occurs more frequently in women, though it isn't clear why. Four types of lupus exist — systemic lupus erythematosus, discoid lupus erythematosus, drug-induced lupus erythematosus and neonatal lupus. Of these, systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common and serious form of lupus.
The outlook for people with lupus was once grim, but diagnosis and treatment of lupus has improved considerably. With treatment, most people with lupus can lead active lives.
Signs and Symptoms
No two cases of lupus are exactly alike. Signs and symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly, may be mild or severe, and may be temporary or permanent. Most people with lupus have mild disease characterized by episodes — called flares — when signs and symptoms get worse for a while, then improve or even disappear completely for a time.
The signs and symptoms of lupus that you experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease. But, in general, lupus signs and symptoms may include:
Butterfly-Shaped Rash (Malar Rash) on the Face That Covers the Cheeks and Bridge of the Nose
Fingers and Toes That Turn White or Blue When Exposed to Cold or During Stressful Periods (Raynaud's Phenomenon)
Hair Loss (Alopecia)
Joint Pain, Stiffness and Swelling
Shortness of Breath
Skin Lesions That Appear or Worsen With Sun Exposure
Weight Loss or Gain
Treatment for lupus depends on your signs and symptoms. Determining whether your signs and symptoms should be treated and what medications to use requires a careful discussion of the benefits and risks with your doctor. As your signs and symptoms flare and subside, you and your doctor may find that you'll need to change medications or dosages.
Three types of drugs are commonly used to treat lupus when your signs and symptoms are mild or moderate. More aggressive lupus may require more aggressive drugs. In general, when first diagnosed with lupus, your doctor may discuss these medications.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), may be used to treat a variety of signs and symptoms associated with lupus. NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, or stronger versions can be prescribed by your doctor. Check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter NSAIDs because some have been associated with serious side effects in people with lupus. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach bleeding, kidney problems and an increased risk of heart problems.
Although there's no known relationship between lupus and malaria, these medications have proved useful in treating signs and symptoms of lupus. Antimalarial may also prevent flares of the disease. Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is the most commonly prescribed antimalarial. Side effects of antimalarial drugs include vision problems and muscle weakness.
These drugs counter the inflammation of lupus, but can have serious long-term side effects, including weight gain, easy bruising, thinning bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection. The risk of side effects increases with higher doses and longer term therapy. To help reduce these risks, your doctor will try to find the lowest dose that controls your symptoms and prescribe corticosteroids for the shortest possible time.
Treatment for Aggressive Lupus
Life-threatening cases of lupus — those including kidney problems, inflammation in the blood vessels, and central nervous system problems, such as seizures — may require more aggressive treatment. In these cases, you and your doctor may consider:
High-dose corticosteroids can be taken orally or administered through a vein in your arm (intravenously). A high-dose regimen of corticosteroids may help control dangerous signs and symptoms quickly but can also cause serious side effects, including infections, mood swings, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. To minimize side effects, your doctor will give you the lowest dose needed to control your signs and symptoms and then reduce the dosage over time.
Drugs that suppress the immune system may be helpful in serious cases of lupus but can cause serious side effects. The most commonly used immunosuppressive drugs include cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan). Less commonly, the immune protein gamma globulin and the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug methotrexate — normally used to treat rheumatic arthritis — may be used to control severe, treatment-resistant symptoms. The drug mycophenolate (CellCept), another immunosuppressant, can be used to treat lupus-related kidney problems. Depending on the drug, immunosuppressive medications may be taken orally or intravenously. Side effects include an increased risk of infection, liver damage, infertility and an increased risk of cancer.
High-dose corticosteroids can be combined with immunosuppressive drugs to reduce the dosage of each drug, which may reduce the risk of side effects. Sometimes, even with aggressive treatment, your kidneys may fail. In that case, you may need kidney dialysis or, if kidney failure is permanent, a kidney transplant.
The diagnosis of SLE is based upon the presence of at least four out of eleven typical characteristics of the disease. The doctor will listen to your chest with a stethoscope. A sound called a heart friction rub or pleural friction rub may be heard. A neurological exam will also be performed.
Anti-Double Strand (Ds) DNA
Antinuclear Antibody (ANA) Panel
CBC to Show Low White Blood Cells, Hemoglobin or Platelets
Chest X-Ray Showing Pleuritis or Pericarditis
Urinalysis to Show Blood, Casts or Protein in the Urine
Anti-SSA or -SSB Antibodies
Anti-Thyroid Microsomal Antibody
Complement Components (C3 and C4)
Coombs' Test - Direct
RPR - A Test for Syphilis
Serum Globulin Electrophoresis
Serum Protein Electrophoresis