Lupus is a chronic and progressive disease that manifests itself in the skin, however the damage usually is occurring deep below the skin’s surface in one or more other body organs, such as: the joints, kidneys, and lungs.
Lupus is a disease categorized as an autoimmune condition whereby the body’s defense system actually attacks its own cells.
Normally, the body’s defense system, also known as the immune system, will only attack foreign invaders in the body. These invaders can be in the form of viruses such as in the common cold, or a piece of wood such as a splinter.
Sometimes, however the immune system, for reasons yet unknown, will confuse its own cells as foreign, and attempt to destroy those cells.
In lupus, this self-attack is characterized by inflammation or swelling, which left untreated will damage surrounding tissue and organs. The disease ranges from mild flair-ups to debilitating and often life-threatening episodes.
Lupus is broken down into three distinct types: discoid lupus, systemic lupus, and drug-induced lupus. Discoid lupus only affects the skin and is characterized by a patchy red and scaly rash most prominently found on the face, neck, or scalp.
Patients diagnosed with discoid lupus may also experience mouth or nose sores called ulcerations, as well as a sensitivity to the rays of the sun (photosensitivity).
Drug-induced lupus is caused by a reaction to specific drugs, most notably in hydralazine, a drug used for high blood pressure and procainamide, a drug used for cardiac rhythm problems.
Because this type of lupus is drug-related, it is easier to treat than discoid lupus. The lupus will resolve itself once the medication is discontinued.
The last type and most serious form of lupus is called systemic (system-wide) lupus. Systemic lupus can affect nearly any organ or system in the body.
For example it can affect the kidneys of the urinary system or the joints of the muscular system or the lungs of the respiratory system.
Some patients have one organ or system involved while others might have several organs and body system involvement.
Obviously, the more organs and systems involved the greater the problems in treating, preventing, and mitigating any further progression of the disease.
There is no single way to diagnose lupus. A very thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical history both past and present, coupled with the results of a series of blood tests, are used to diagnose the disease.
Because of the difficulty in diagnosing lupus, it is often misdiagnosed as something less serious or completely different such as rheumatoid arthritis or Raynaud’s disease.
Please contact your physician, if you experience any of the following symptoms: the onset of a rash or reddened area on the skin, joint pain, changes in urinary function, or shortness of breath or have a family history of lupus.
Remember, early intervention and treatment is the key to successful control of lupus.
In health and wellness!
Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. She is a registered nurse and a board certified traditional naturopath The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases.
Naturopathy is a complementary practice to health care and should be used in conjunction with a competent health care practitioner. Please consult your physician before starting any alternative modalities. Her new book, "Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living"
She may be reached by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.