With each passing day the technology advances have been growing by leaps and bounds, our cell phones are capable of doing anything and everything, we have smartphones, smart cars even smart houses. The advancement is not only limited to these, the health care industry is not left behind, it has advanced a lot in many ways too. As there are new technologies being developed everyday, so is the normal person getting more aware of the various health issues that our body may be prone to. One of the many health issues that has been gaining a bit of attention in the recent past is Lupus.
So what is lupus?
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, heart, and lungs. Lupus is not a contagious disease. A person cannot transmit it sexually or in any other way to another person. However, in rare cases, women with lupus may give birth to children who develop a form of lupus. This is called neonatal lupus. It is a systemic condition. This means it has an impact throughout the body. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. It can cause inflammation in the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, blood, heart, or a combination of these. This condition typically goes through cycles. At times of remission, the person will have no symptoms. During a flare-up, the disease is active, and symptoms appear.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition, but the exact cause is unclear. The immune system protects the body and fights off antigens, such as viruses, bacteria, and germs. It does this by producing proteins called antibodies. White blood cells, or B lymphocytes, produce these antibodies. When a person has an autoimmune condition, such as lupus, the immune system cannot differentiate between unwanted substances, or antigens, and healthy tissue. As a result, the immune system directs antibodies against both the healthy tissue and the antigens. This causes swelling, pain and tissue damage. The most common type of autoantibody that develops in people with lupus is an antinuclear antibody (ANA). The ANA reacts with parts of the cell’s nucleus, the command center of the cell. These autoantibodies circulate in the blood, but some of the body’s cells have walls permeable enough to let some autoantibodies through. The autoantibodies can then attack the DNA in the nucleus of these cells. This is why lupus affects some organs and not others. Now that we know what lupus is, it is natural for our inquisitive mind to know the risk factors involved for this disease to occur. Let us find out more about these risk factors.
Hormones are chemical substances that the body produces. They control and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs. As 9 out of 10 occurrences of lupus affect females, researchers have looked at a possible link between estrogen and lupus. Both men and women produce estrogen, but women produce more. In a review published in 2016, scientists observed that estrogen can affect immune activity and induce lupus antibodies in mice that are susceptible to lupus. There is not enough evidence to confirm that estrogen causes lupus. If there is a link, estrogen-based treatment could regulate the severity of lupus. However, more research is necessary before doctors can offer it as a treatment.
Does Lupus affects only females?
Though systemic lupus erythromatosus is often thought of as a woman’s health issue, the truth is men get lupus too. While the prevalence of lupus in woman is great-nearly 90% of lupus patients are woman ages 15-45,men are also affected by lupus. Lupus in men are much severe.
Symptoms of lupus:
Muscle and Joint pain
Rashes: One common sign is butterfly rash across nose and cheeks
Sun or light sensitivity
Blood clotting problem
- Genetic Factors
Researchers have not proved that any specific genetic factor causes lupus, although it is more common in some families. Scientists have identified certain genes that may contribute to the development of lupus, but there is not enough evidence to prove that they cause the disease.
Environmental agents — such as chemicals or viruses — may contribute to triggering lupus in people who are already genetically susceptible. Possible environmental triggers include:
Smoking: A rise in the number of cases in recent decades may be due to higher tobacco exposure.
Exposure to sunlight: Some suggest that this may be a trigger.
Medication: Around 10 percent of cases may be drug-related, according to Genetics Home Reference
Viral infections: These may trigger symptoms in people who are prone to SLE.
As lupus is an autoimmune disease which attacks the tissues, it can adversely affect the other organs as well, such as:
- Kidneys: Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) can make it difficult for the body to remove waste products and other toxins effectively. Around 1 in 3 people with lupus will have kidney problems.
- Lungs: Some people develop pleuritis, an inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity that causes chest pain, particularly with breathing. Pneumonia may develop.
- Central nervous system: Lupus can sometimes affect the brain or central nervous system. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, depression, memory disturbances, vision problems, seizures, stroke, or changes in behavior.
- Blood vessels: Vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels, can occur. This can affect circulation.
- Blood: Lupus can cause anemia, leukopenia (a decreased number of white blood cells) or thrombocytopenia (a decrease in the number of platelets in the blood, which assist in clotting).
- Heart: If inflammation affects the heart, it can result in myocarditis and endocarditis. It can also affect the membrane that surrounds the heart, causing pericarditis. Chest pain or other symptoms may result. Endocarditis can damage the heart valves, causing the valve surface to thicken and develop. This can result in growths that can lead to heart murmurs.
As Lupus can affect both the Kidneys and Lungs together, it can lead to various other myriad of issues related to both, in order to keep our kidneys and lungs in prime condition we must practice yoga and breathing exercises. There is currently no cure for lupus, but people can manage their symptoms and flares with lifestyle changes and medication. Treatment aims to:
- prevent or manage flares
- reduce the risk of organ damage
In the past, people who had a diagnosis of lupus would not usually survive for more than 5 years. Now, however, treatment can significantly increase a person’s lifespan, according to the National Institutes of Health. Effective therapy also makes it possible to manage lupus, so that a person can live an active, healthy life. As scientists learn more about genetics, doctors hope that one day they will be able to identify lupus at an earlier stage. This will make it easier to prevent complications before they occur.