What is lupus?
From a medical perspective, systemic lupus erythematosis, is a chronic autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation and tissue damage involving multiple organ systems. It affects mostly females, and usually occurs when women are in their child-bearing years. Men can also have lupus, but it is less common. The pathophysiology involves autoantibodies which attack the body’s own tissues. Basically, a hyperactive immune system. Lupus is thought to be caused by genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors, but it is still unclear. For physicians, it can be very hard to diagnose because patients usually present with multiple nonspecific symptoms.
Lupus can cause constitutional symptoms such as fatigue and low-grade fevers, cutaneous symptoms such as photosensitivity and rash, particularly the malar rash which is also called “butterfly rash” because of the way it spreads across the cheeks and nasal bridge. The majority also experience joint pain. Some of the more serious conditions include nephritis, pericarditis, and pleuritis, which is inflammation of the kidneys, lining of the heart, and lining of the lungs, respectively. Because it is an autoimmune disorder, patients with lupus are more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases and complications.
To a patient with lupus, it is a completely life altering disease. It is not just a condition you have, but a way of life. Although we all have different manifestations of lupus, one thing is true for us all- the disease is very unpredictable. One day you feel like you can climb Mount Everest, the next you can barely get out of bed. Lupus can affect a person’s ability to work, care for their family, and interact with family and friends. One of the common struggles patients face is getting the people they love to understand they are sick because most people with lupus don’t look sick.
But this does not mean we are miserable, hopeless people. We create new normals, and learn how to enjoy life within our limitations. We strive to create awareness, find a cure, and support each other. Whatever lupus is, it is not unconquerable!