Living with Lupus: Lupus Awareness month

Lupus Awareness month takes place during October and helps raise awareness for those suffering from the autoimmune disease.

Systematic Scleroderma

Picture from Wikipedia

What is Lupus?

The term “Lupus” is used to define the severe condition Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and can vary from mild to life-threatening.

According to WebDM.com, “Lupus is an autoimmune disease meaning that the body’s natural defense system (immune system) attacks healthy tissues instead of attacking only things like bacteria and viruses. This causes inflammation and the disease is lifelong and can become severe.”

The most common symptoms of the illness appear as rashes often on the face, wrists and hands.

You may also experience extreme fatigue, joint pain and swelling.

It is caused by the white blood cells fighting healthy tissue and the immune system rather than just fighting off anti-bodies and infections whilst being ill.

“Diagnosis is made by blood tests in individuals with suspicious symptoms. The key blood tests are anti-nuclear antigen (ANA) and anti double stranded DNA antibodies,” says Paul Emery, Director of the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine.

 

Lupus fact file

 

How is it treated?

There is currently no cure for SLE however the improvement of medication has allowed practices to distribute medicines that stabilize Lupus. It can take up to seven years to finally be diagnosed and certain medication is used to sustain the illness and keep episodes to a minimum.

“It is treated with a wide variety of drugs, depending on severity of disease and response to the milder agents. Hydroxychloroquine is a starter drug,” Emery states.

Hydroxychloroquine is a medicine that helps treat diseases such as Malaria by boosting the immune system slightly. It is used in cases such as Lupus and Arthritis by reducing swelling of the joints and the soothing of the skin.

“At first I just thought it was Eczema due to stress but I started struggling in the kitchen when I actually had to grab baking trays and pans because it was just impossible to close my left hand at times,” says Deborah Bennet, 54.

“It all started after my car accident when I started losing my hair. A skin condition started to develop on my scalp which refused any re-growth of hair follicles and doctors ruled it out as Eczema due to stress.

“I lost my job due to the cognitive impairment the accident left me with because I struggled to remember names and my memory went black nearly all of the time when I tried to remember anything.”

This is a common problem that Lupus sufferers will face as up to 60% of those suffering will experience some sort of memory loss.

Deborah expands on the difficulties of living with Lupus and says “my daughter has to help me with cooking, cleaning and basic day to day tasks.”

 

What triggers Lupus?

Sunlight can cause rashes to appear on the skin as 60% of SLE sufferers are sun-sensitive compared to the average person.  Stress is also a huge factor that impacts on the disease.

It can take up to seven years on average for someone suffering from Lupus to get a diagnosis. The main trigger for the disease is a severe hormonal change which is why 90% of Lupus sufferers tend to be women. Rapid increases in hormonal levels may occur after childbirth, through menopause or during puberty.

There is a lot of research and progress going into finding a cure for the disease and the Lupus Awareness month helps inform people about Lupus in hope to keep the number of sufferers to a minimum.

 

Written by Catrina Butler

 

About the Author

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This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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