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Lupus by Nancy Bone

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Lupus is a disease that affects your immune system causing it to attack the body’s tissues and organs. There are several different types of lupus but the most common is systemic lupus erythematosus. Systemic means it affects many parts of the body. Erythema is a redness of the skin, signaling inflammation or infection. Lupus has several different identifying symptoms which can vary by person and progression of the disease. Common symptoms include fatigue, muscle or joint pain, unexplained fevers, and skin rashes. In more severe cases lupus can affect the heart, lungs, brain and kidneys, and blood vessels.

No one particular test can detect lupus, however, since this disease has some of the same symptoms as other conditions doctors may be able to diagnose lupus by ruling out other illnesses or diseases. This process can take months or even years. Women are at greater risk of developing lupus than men, with African-American, Asian, and Hispanic women leading the list. Lupus can be genetic, environmental, and/or hormonal and can affect people of any age, but generally is detected during mid-teen to middle age. Women also need to be aware that pregnancy can be affected by lupus possibly causing a miscarriage if there is a significant flare-up during the pregnancy. Preferably a woman wanting to get pregnant should plan to do so while the disease is dormant. Hair loss can occur in some patients but will grow back when the disease calms down. Since this disease literally attacks its own system it is important to be aware of changes within your own body. Uncontrolled disease can cause inflammation of the lining of the heart and lungs, eventually leading to heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (severe lung problems).

Treatment can consist of eating healthy, well-balanced meals, and limiting saturated fats. Blood vessels can build up with plaque and harden leading to more complications if a good diet is not followed. Keeping weight controlled will help since excessive weight gain will stress joints that already are swollen or painful. Drinking low-fat or skim milk will help protect bones from becoming porous, a condition known as osteoporosis, and eating dark green leafy vegetables will help with maintaining healthy blood and vessels. Extra sleep may be required to relieve fatigue and help with mental and emotional distress. Seeking professional advice for anxiety and depression may help Joining support groups where people share how they cope with the disease is also beneficial.  Exercise will be useful in not only maintaining weight but is also good for relieving stress. If exercising or walking outdoors be sure to cover up since exposure to sunlight can have an adverse reaction on persons with lupus and reduce flare-ups.

Lupus can be a manageable disease when diagnosed early. When the treatment plan is followed people are able to lead reasonably normal lifestyles. Regular checkups and blood tests are required to make sure you are on track with medications and to catch any infection before it gets out of hand.






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