Understanding A Lupus Diagnosis

Understanding lupus is an important step in determining whether your or a loved one could have the disease. Many aspects of lupus are changing or still unknown, but medical science continues to dedicate extensive research to build upon what we already know about lupus.

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system uses white blood cells and antibodies to search out and destroy foreign bodies within your body, such as harmful bacteria, viruses and even splinters.

In some people, the immune system is unable to distinguish between harmful intruders and healthy tissue. Autoantibodies, antibodies directed against the body itself, are created. This leads to pain, inflammation and damage to healthy tissue.

Lupus is chronic with symptoms affecting the body often for years through cycles of flares and remission. Your kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, skin and joints can all be affected. Symptoms and affected tissues vary from one patient to another, and even from one time to another.

What Are the Types Of Lupus?

Lupus treatment is tailored to the specific symptoms and cycles of the individual, as well as the type of Lupus with which she is diagnosed. The majority of lupus discussion concerns the most common type, Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), although four types of lupus exist.

  • Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE): mainly affects the skin, most frequently as a rash on the face, scalp and chest. Skin may also become scaly or change color. DLE can develop into SLE, although this is rare.
  • Drug-induced Lupus: most common lupus diagnosis for men. Symptoms are similar to those of SLE but are the result of certain medications. All symptoms typically disappear once the use of the medication is discontinued.
  • Neonatal Lupus: very rare, but affects some babies born to women with lupus. Rashes, low blood cell counts and liver problems almost always disappear after a few months, but heart defects can persist.
  • Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): the most common form of lupus. Many parts of the body can be affected, though each individual is often only affected in a few possible areas.

What Causes Lupus?

Doctors are still unsure what causes lupus. Medical science believes it to be a combination of environmental, genetic and hormonal factors, and a search for the cause is ongoing.

Lupus is not contagious and only a small percentage of patients have a relative with lupus. Babies born to women with lupus are rarely affected, though special medical attention is necessary for the combination of lupus and pregnancy.