• Reshma Khan MD

Lupus – The ‘WOLF’

Updated: May 5, 2019


Lupus- The wolf

The word ‘lupus’ means ‘wolf’ in Latin. The word lupus was first used in 10th century to describe the disease causing destructive injuries reminding of bites of this animal.


Systemic lupus erythematous also referred to as ‘Lupus’ is an autoimmune disease affecting different organs of your body causing chronic inflammation. In this disease, your body’s own immune system attacks your own organs to cause damage. The cause of lupus is not known however multiple factors are required such as genetic makeups and environmental factors to get a disease. Lupus typically affects women of childbearing age and is also more common in certain ethnic minority groups such as African American, Asians, and Hispanics. Lupus can affect different organs such as skin, joints, muscles, heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. The disease can vary from mild to severe. For example, some people can have lupus affecting only their skin and joints, while other people can have life threatening disease affecting their major organ such as kidney, lungs or heart.


Lupus- Masquerade

Lupus is a complex disease and can present in many ways. It often gets misdiagnosed or ignored and can take years to get a diagnosis as the symptoms can masquerade as other illnesses.


The American College of Rheumatology has a list of symptoms and other measures that your doctor can use as a guide to suspect if your symptoms are suspicious for lupus, however rheumatologists can best determine whether you have lupus and advise you about treatment options.


Symptoms:

  • Rashes (Butterfly rash)

  • Photosensitivity (rash on sun exposed skin)

  • Arthritis (joint pain, swelling or stiffness)

  • Mouth sores

  • Lung or heart inflammation

  • Kidney problem

  • Abnormal blood work such as low hemoglobin, low white blood cell count, low platelets, positive ANA etc.

ANA is a screening blood test that is ordered by your doctor if you are suspected to have lupus. However positive ANA by itself can not make diagnosis of lupus and you may need further evaluation by a rheumatologist. Treatment of lupus can depend on the involvement of organs and severity of disease.


If you are diagnosed with lupus then certain things are important for you to know:

  • Prolong sun exposure can flare your disease and it is recommended that you should avoid sun by protective clothing (long sleeve and big hat) and broad spectrum sunscreen.

  • Lupus can also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to controlling your disease, you should also stay active, exercise regularly and lower other risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

  • And remember, most people with lupus can live normal lives. Treatment of lupus has improved, and people with the disease are living longer. Please talk to your rheumatologist for more information about disease and treatment plan.


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