Education, Awareness, Support

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a condition in which the immune system becomes too active.

It is a condition-affecting women more than men (especially younger women between the ages 15 - 50), and is characterised by wide fluctuations. Common symptoms are fatigue, aches and pains, skin rashes (sometimes sun-sensitive). More serious complications include kidney, brain or blood involvement. In approximately one in five of all patients, there is a tendency to spontaneous blood clotting (Hughes syndrome).

Although lupus is a serious, and sometimes fatal disease, the outcome has improved out of all recognition. With correct diagnosis and treatment, the majority of cases can now expect a normal life span, can have normal pregnancies and can even ultimately come off all medication.

Clinical Features

Lupus symptoms are wide and varied. Lupus may strike aggressively as an acute and severe illness, or grumble on undiagnosed for many years. Alternatively, Lupus may appear as a transient disease. Earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment has meant that for the majority of patients a normal life span and life style can be expected.

Lupus and ...

Lupus Diagnosis

Lupus can, in the vast majority of patients, be diagnosed quite precisely with blood tests. The hallmark of active SLE is the finding in the blood of a variety of antibodies - a group of proteins - which have the property of reacting against various chemicals in the nucleus of the cell.

Lupus Treatment

While the dramatic improvement in the outlook for Lupus patients during the past few years might be attributed to advances in Lupus treatment, it is more probable that the better prognosis is due to the wider recognition of the disease - especially in its milder form - by physicians throughout the world.

Drug Treatments

Drugs used in SLE fall into four main groups, being, in ascending order of powerfulness (and dangers of side effects):
• Aspirin and "non-steroidals"
• Anti-malarials
• Steroids ("cortisone")
• Immunosuppressives and biologics

Lifestyle

Sunlight's effect on Lupus

One of the well-known features of lupus is sensitivity to sunlight. Henrietta Aladjem, who has contributed so much education about lupus, called her book "The Sun is my Enemy".

There is no doubt that sunlight (more specifically UV light) has a major effect in activating the disease. Many patients notice that their rashes, as well as joint pains and other symptoms are worse after a period of sunbathing. Nevertheless, sun sensitivity is not a universal problem. Sun barrier creams have only been of limited help. Various local lupus groups have collected information from manufacturers in their own countries and have provided considerable guidance in choice of makeup and UV-barrier creams.

Research

A glance at the medical journals at any time over the past 35 years shows that Lupus, because of its widespread features, has been the focus of very intensive research. Indeed it has provided clues not only to the cause and mechanism of arthritis in general, but also some insight into a variety of other conditions.

There is now an international journal, 'Lupus' which publishes monthly research papers on Lupus from units all over the world.