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Systemic Lupus erythematosus - Hard to say, harder to live with...


So few have heard of it, yet worldwide it’s seen as more common than leukemia, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE, Lupus) is an autoimmune disease which can affect all parts and organs of the body giving rise to many varying symptoms.

Lupus is a condition whereby the body’s defense mechanism goes into overdrive and starts to attack itself. The symptoms are many and varied, and the illness often seems to mimic other diseases.
This gives rise to difficulty in diagnosis and the condition can be overlooked, sometimes for years, unless the General Practitioner or consultant is alert to the possibility of lupus.

Symptoms may include
- extreme fatigue
- joint and muscle pain
- facial or other rashes
- oral or nasopharyngeal ulcers
- hair loss
- weight loss
- possible involvement of the kidneys, heart, or lungs
- fever
- photosensitivity
- hematologic disorders such as anaemia
- miscarriage (especially regarding Hughes Syndrome)
- neurologic disorders like depression

People affected
The majority of Lupus patients are female of childbearing age, but men and even young children can be affected by Lupus.

It is estimated that 1 in 750 women suffer from Lupus in Europe with the ratio of women to men being 9:1. Lupus is a worldwide disease more common in some races than others. The incidence in white women is 1 in 1000 compared with that in black women of 1 in 250, Hispanic and Asian races also have a higher tendency to Lupus.

Triggers
Lupus is neither infectious nor contagious - the cause is not known, although research has shown some evidence implicating heredity, hormones and infections, including viruses.

The disease lies dormant in the body until some trigger outside the body sets the process in motion. This sparks off what is called a "flare".

Lupus can be triggered
- at puberty
- after childbirth
- during menopause
- through sunlight
- after a viral infection
- after a prolonged course of certain medication
- as a result of trauma

Diagnosis and Treatment
Due to the various and often unspecific symptoms, it may take time to attain a definite diagnosis. The diagnosis can be confirmed by careful clinical investigation and by blood tests (e.g. testing for anti-nuclear and Anti-dsDNA antibodies).

The type and dosage of medication such as anti-malaria drugs, cortisone, immunosuppressants and chemotherapy depends on the severity of the disease activity and organ involvement.

There is no cure ...
People diagnosed normally remain under medical care, with constant medication, throughout their lives.
As a result of constant supervision and medical attention, many symptoms have less impact, but side effects often occur.
Lupus adversely influences the lives of sufferers, the family and their friends.

SLE - systemic lupus erythematosus
....hard to say - harder to live with....