What is Lupus?

Friday, February 18, 2005

What is Lupus?

The African-American Lupus Foundation, Inc.
The African-American Lupus Foundation of Minnesota, Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization that provides education, support and services to those affected by Lupus, promotes awareness and understanding of Lupus to others and supports research that seeks to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Lupus as well as to discover its cause and cure.

Information Packets
Web Site
Doctor Referral List (board certified physicians who have indicated an interest in treating individuals with Lupus from your area)
Article and Resources Library

Main Entry:
lu·pus Pronunciation: 'lü-p&s
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin, from Latin, wolf
Date: 14th century
: any of several diseases characterized by skin lesions; especially : SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS

What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic (persisting over a long period of time), inflammatory disease in which the body's immune system fails to serve its normal protective functions and instead forms antibodies (substances produced by the body to fight bacteria and other foreign substances) that attack healthy tissues and organs.


Common Lupus Symptoms:
Extreme Fatigue
Muscle Aches
Joint Swelling
Persistent Low Grade Fever
Butterfly Rash Across Bridge of Nose and Cheeks
Weight Loss
Hair Loss
Sensitivity to the Sun
Chest Pain on Deep Breathing
Mouth or Nose Ulcers
Raynaud's Phenomenon

Because Lupus persents itself in a variety of ways and can mimic the symptoms of other diseases, diagnosis is often difficult. If you have three or more of these symptoms on a recurring basis, call your doctor.

What Causes Lupus?
The cause of Lupus remains unknown, but evidence points to heredity, hormones, immune system dysfunction, infections (including viruses) or some external environmental occurrence. Scientists suspect that individuals are genetically predisposed to Lupus and that the disease remains quiet until a trigger sets the disease process in motion.


Who gets Lupus?
Anyone can get Lupus. However, 90% of Lupus patients are women. They are usually diagnosed in their child-bearing years (15-45). Lupus affects one of every 185 Americans. African American, Latinos, Asians and Native American are at particular risk.

Only 10% of those diagnosed with Lupus will have a parent or sibling who already has or may develop Lupus. Approximately 5% of the children born to individuals with Lupus will develop the illness.

How is Lupus Treated?
Treatment varies for individuals with Lupus, but the doctor has several goals: preventing flares, treating flares when they occur and minimizing complications.

Preventing Flares
Often requires the most diligent work on the part of the patient to determine what her/his triggers are and striving to avoid them. In addition, a Lupus patient may want to implement an overall "wellness plan", including plenty of rest, stress management, and a sensible diet and exercise program (it is important to consult a doctor when starting a new exercise program).

Treating Flares and Minimizing Complications
Several types of drugs are used depending on the individual's symptoms and needs. They may include both over-the-counter medications or prescription medications.

Examples are:
* Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
* Antimalarials
* Corticosteroids (such as prednisone)
* Others depending on the circumstances

What is a Lupus Flare?
A Lupus flare is a period of heightened disease activity, causing inflammation and pain.

What Triggers (causes) Flares?
It varies from individual to individual, but common triggers include:

* Overwork or not enough rest
* Physical or emotion trauma or stress
* Over-exposure to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light
* Infection or other illness

The idea that lupus is generally a fatal disease is one of the gravest misconceptions about this illness. In fact, the prognosis of lupus is much better today than ever before. It is true that medical science has not yet developed a method for curing lupus and some people do die from the disease. However, people with non-organ threatening disease can look forward to a normal lifespan if they follow the instructions of their physician, take their medication as prescribed, and know when to seek help for unexpected side effects of a medication or a new manifestation of their lupus.

Although some people with lupus have severe recurrent attacks and are frequently hospitalized, most people with lupus rarely require hospitalization. There are many lupus patients who never have to be hospitalized, especially if they are careful and follow their physician's instructions. New research brings unexpected findings each year. The progress made in treatment and diagnosis during the last decade has been greater than that made over the past 100 years. It is therefore a sensible idea to maintain control of a disease that tomorrow may be curable.

Packets containing information about Lupus and the services of The Foundation are send to all who request them. http://www.aalfinc.org/contactus.html

If you would like more information about Lupus, treatments or any of our services, please contact:

African-American Lupus Foundation, Inc.
612-822-0206 or 1-800-822-0206

Email: contactus@aalfinc.org

or we are online at http://www.aalfinc.org

A.A.L.F., Inc.
3029 Second Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408


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