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:
- 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 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.
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