Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

There is a good chance that SLE or “lupus” was the illness that introduced your doctors to the field of rheumatology.

It is the quintessential autoimmune illness, bringing challenges for both patients and doctors in diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring.

An immune regulation problem results in the production of abnormal immune complexes that can travel almost anywhere in the bloodstream, depositing in tissues and triggering inflammation. As a result, lupus can become active throughout the body, from the skin to the musculoskeletal system to organs.

Symptoms of Lupus

Lupus symptoms can come on suddenly or develop slowly, not to mention they can also be temporarily or permanent. Generally, people with lupus have a mild case of the disease that causes flare-ups, which is when symptoms worsen and then improve for a period of time. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Headaches and confusion
  • Joint stiffness, swelling, and pain
  • Butterfly-shaped facial rash appearing on cheeks and nose
  • Skin lesions caused by sun exposure sensitivity

How is Lupus Diagnosed?

Lupus presents itself in many different ways, and therefore, diagnosis can be tricky. Symptoms of lupus can mimic other health problems, so a rheumatologist must rule out other illnesses before making a final diagnosis. It is based on clinical imaging tests as well as laboratory and biopsy results, and without a doubt, there is no substitute for an experienced rheumatologist looking at the whole picture. Before your appointment, be prepared to answer questions the doctor may have for you, including:

  • When did symptoms begin, and do they come and go?
  • Does anything trigger the symptoms?
  • Do any of your immediate family members have lupus?
  • Are there any medications or supplements being taken?

Lupus Treatment

Lupus changes over time and everyone responds to treatment differently. As such, caring for patients with lupus requires vigilance and attention to detail. The goal of treatment is to limit inflammatory injury to tissues, using a broad range of therapeutic options, from simple anti-inflammatory medicines to “immune modulating” therapy that slows the immune response to “cytotoxic” treatments that kill immune cells. The stronger the medicine, the higher the risk, and a big part of managing lupus involves determining the appropriate approach for the current disease state.

Although most people with lupus require regular doctor visits and must take medications, a healthy lifestyle has a huge impact on the disease course and needs to be the foundation on which medical intervention is built. If you think you or a loved one may be showing signs of lupus, please contact Carolina Arthritis today to schedule an appointment with one of our rheumatologists.

Jan 15, 2019

10 Ways to Build your Quality of Life with Arthritis

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People living with arthritis are often discouraged by how much the disease can take from their life. If you have arthritis, physical limitations caused by chronic pain and fatigue can diminish your quality of life. When you suffer from arthritis, so much energy is consumed just trying to accomplish ordinary tasks and usual daily activities […]

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Nine Strategies for Managing Depression Caused by Arthritis

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Anyone who suffers from arthritis knows that the blues can become a part of life. According to The Arthritis Foundation, “People with arthritis have high rates of depression and anxiety. Many of those affected don’t receive mental health treatment – which could potentially help with their physical arthritis symptoms.” The good news is that it […]

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Tips for Cold Weather Exercise with Arthritis

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Winter has hit North Carolina! And while it may not be officially considered winter for a few weeks, these frigid days tell us otherwise. The temperatures are quickly dropping and that comfy couch and cozy blanket are much more appealing than a brisk walk outside. Unfortunately, inactivity will make pain and depression worse for arthritis […]

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