Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease where the body starts overproducing antibodies that attack its own tissues and organs, mainly affects women but can affect anyone. the 3rd most common autoimmune disease is lupus, affecting 1.5 million Americans.
The major organ system that it attacks is the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and blood cells. It also causes fatigue (which is sometimes severe), fever, weight loss, hair loss, and rashes. Even lupus is listed as a part of the definition of disability under our social security system. Now depending on where you fall under this disease (moderate vs severe) depends on the requirements for your claim to be approved, or denied.
What exactly is the cause?
Lupus happens when your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your body, causing it to attack other organs and systems. It’s probable that lupus develops from a mix of factors, including your genetics and environment.
- Sunlight. Sunlight may induce lupus skin lesions or activate an internal reaction in people who are prone.
- Infections. In some people, having an infection can cause or exacerbate lupus.
- Medications. Anti-seizure medications, antibiotics, and certain blood pressure pills can all induce lupus. When people who have drug-induced lupus cease taking their medication, they typically improve. Symptoms occasionally linger even after the medication is discontinued.
- Tobacco use. People who smoke are at increased risk of developing lupus.
Lupus most commonly affects your:
- Internal organs, like your kidneys and heart
- Blood cells
What are the various types of lupus?
There are the following major types of lupus, which vary depending on their cause and severity:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): SLE is the most common type of lupus and affects multiple organs of the body including the brain, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and joints. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include fever, fatigue, joint pain, anemia, or even severe kidney disease.
- Cutaneous lupus: This type only affects the skin and usually results in raised, red patches with a depression in the center, which looks similar to a discoid rash. Usually found on the face, neck, scalp, or arms.
- Drug-induced lupus: This rare type of lupus usually develops after a patient takes medications such as hydralazine (used to treat high blood pressure), penicillamine (used to treat heavy metal poisoning), or procainamide (used to treat cardiac arrhythmia). Symptoms of drug-induced lupus may be very mild and disappear just a few days after the patient stops taking the medication that caused it.
- Neonatal lupus: This rare form of lupus can begin in an unborn baby or newly born child. It may result in serious birth defects, developmental disabilities, and even death.
Symptoms of Lupus
- Aches and pains in your joints, stiffness, and edema
- Rashes on the face that cover the cheeks and nose bridge, or rashes elsewhere on the body
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion, and memory loss
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
- Loss of appetite and unintended weight loss
- Inflammation of the lining around your heart (pericarditis)
- Swelling in your abdomen from a collection of fluid (ascites)
- Nausea, vomiting
Your doctor can diagnose lupus by performing a physical exam and medical history. There are no specific tests for lupus, but your doctor may request lab tests to check blood counts or kidney function. You may also have X-rays to identify inflammation in your bones. Your doctor may also request a chest X-ray to check for signs of pericarditis.
How is lupus treated?
There’s no cure for lupus, but your doctor can treat your symptoms and manage flares with medications such as:
- Pain relievers (analgesics)
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, reduce inflammation and suppress your immune system
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), an antimalarial drug that reduces the severity of skin lesions in some patients with lupus
- Immunosuppressive drugs to modulate or suppress your immune system (such as azathioprine, mycophenolate mofetil, and cyclophosphamide)
- Biologic drugs such as rituximab or belimumab, which can help prevent flares in people with severe lupus.
Self-Care at Home for Lupus
Because there is no cure for lupus, self-care is an important part of managing the disease. To help control symptoms and prevent flares:
- Avoid medications that can cause side effects (such as NSAIDs). Speak with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications, supplements, or alternative remedies.
- Keep a record of your symptoms and show it to your doctor, so you can decide together which medications might be most helpful for you.
- Eat a healthy diet and control your weight.
- Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms. Ask your doctor about the best diet for you.
- Exercise daily to reduce stress and improve mood, but avoid activities that worsen your symptoms (such as over-exercising or high-impact sports).
- Get plenty of rest and avoid stress. Try to make time for activities you enjoy, such as taking a walk or playing with a pet.
- Keep your skin protected from the sun, cold weather, and other harsh conditions to reduce rashes or flare-ups. Be sure to wear clothing that covers your arms, legs, and feet in public.
- Keep your hands and feet warm with gloves, socks, or other clothing. If you have Raynaud’s syndrome, try wearing mittens instead of gloves.
- Take care to avoid cuts and bruises, which can take a long time to heal in people with lupus. In some cases, you may want to use a cane or a walker if you have trouble with balance.
- Wear sunglasses, even on cloudy days, to avoid eye damage from ultraviolet rays.
- Visit your doctor regularly for checkups and lab tests. Besides managing your condition, this helps your doctor see how well the medications are working.
- Inform your doctor of any changes in your health, including new symptoms and the need to adjust medications. Your doctor may also want to treat you for depression or provide a referral to a counselor or support group.
If you have lupus, it’s important that you understand how different treatments can affect your disease and overall health. It’s also crucial to know your treatment options and talk these over with your doctor.
If you are diagnosed with moderate lupus, Your disability is approved if you can no longer do two of the following three categories:
Cannot work at a job that you used to or could perform. Falls under unable to work for 12 months
Cannot lift 20 lbs. Falls under unable to work for 6 months
Cannot walk more than 200 feet without being stopped by the disease. Falls under unable to work for 3 months
If you are diagnosed with severe lupus, your disability is approved if you have two of the following three categories:
Cannot walk more than 50 feet without being stopped by the disease. Falls under unable to work for 6 months
Cannot lift 10 lbs. Falls under unable to work for 12 months
Cannot follow simple, one or two-step commands. falls under unable to work for 3 months