Lupus is a musculoskeletal chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation throughout your body, further leading to multiple organ failure – skin, kidneys, heart, and brain and eventually death. An autoimmune condition is that which the body’s own immune system is responsible for the inflammation and dissociation of its own cells and tissues.
Although there is still no known cure for lupus, most people diagnosed with Lupus manage it with treatment as prescribed, that in the long run helps reduce symptoms and preventing probable subsequent health issues that may be brought about by Lupus. Through adaptation of different wellness strategies. These may vary from stress mitigation (yoga and meditation), a workout program and most importantly watching one’s nutrition. Finding social support is also crucial and helps reduce psychological distress and stigma arising from a Lupus diagnosis.
The most visible sign of a probable Lupus case is Sjogren’s Syndrome, a condition that results in chronic dehydration leading to severe dryness in the mouth and nasal cavity. Early symptoms will also include.
- frequent fatigue
- persistent fevers
- irritable rash on different parts of the skin
- and patchy hair loss.
These symptoms are often like those resulting from other diseases and may not necessarily mean that one has lupus. It is however, recommended to seek medical advice as soon as possible after manifestation of the symptoms, failure to which – if it is later diagnosed as lupus – then inflammation in crucial body organs like the liver or kidneys may start to occur, and may happen consecutively.
Certain groups may be at a higher risk of developing lupus. Examples of risk factors for lupus include:
- Sex: Women are often more at risk to develop lupus than men – as a result of the presence of more reproductive hormones than men, as we shall discuss herein- but the disease can present as more severe in men.
- Age: Most Lupus cases have been diagnosed between the ages 15 and 44 according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on Lupus, May 7th, 2020.
- Race or ethnicity: Lupus is mostly prevalent in Western ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.
- Genetics: One is at a high risk of developing lupus if there was previously a member of the family diagnosed with the condition.
What are the known causes of lupus?
A study by Wiley Online Library (2011), suggests that abnormal hormone levels as a result of persistent emotional stress or imbalance of sex hormones such as estrogen could contribute to lupus. Lupus may be triggered in the susceptible where one has just experienced a huge emotional upheaval like losing a loved one, a terminal illness diagnosis or other major life complications.
These mostly come into play if one falls in any of the risk factors mentioned above. They include a series of consistent exposure to certain lifestyle-linked factors. Knowing what these factors are could go a long way in helping one control them in most cases, as well as help manage the condition better.
Having undergone surgery or previously suffered a severe body injury could raise one’s chances to develop lupus. This is as a result of stress on the immune system to try and quickly heal the affected areas. This is also putting women at a high risk of developing the condition after pregnancy and childbirth.
This is a rare case where after childbirth, the baby acquires the mother’s antibodies and already weak immune system. This consequently leads to inflammation in the baby’s developing liver, kidney, and heart.
Living with Lupus
SLE can be unpredictable, inconsistent, and very difficult to diagnose. After diagnosis, the day to day worry of not knowing what is going to happen next can often leave you feeling powerless. There is also the challenge where a patient may feel obligated to suppress their pain and pretend to feel alright because most people do not understand the symptoms, and the fact that most patients look okay on the outside despite being in serious pain. The most important thing that a Lupus patient can do is;
Self-advocacy. This means learning more about the disease, understanding one’s symptoms through research or advice from a medical professional and understanding the different known triggers for the disease. Having this information enables a patient deal with the unpredictability aspect of Lupus.
Properly manage your time and energy. Lupus fatigue is not like normal tiredness. It leaves the patient completely drained. Planning how you use your energy helps avoid the nuances of sleeping at odd hours of the day, as not even that leaves you feeling less tired after. You will be able to track your rest times during the day, enabling you to still go about occupational activities as well as socializing enough without having to strain yourself. Most people diagnosed with Lupus also tend to become very light sensitive, making it important to regulate one’s exposure times to direct sunlight.
Asking for help. Lupus patients often suffer from sudden fatigue and severe joint pains. In an environment where a lot of lifting or carrying things around, one may need to ask for help from friends or colleagues. As aforementioned, you may look well, and people may not understand why exactly you need the assistance. If you know or interact with a Lupus patient (schoolmates, colleagues, family et al) asking “ How are you?” or “What can I do to help?” could literally save the person’s life.
In conclusion, doing these things will help you certainly build up your confidence, as you live positively with the condition post-diagnosis. Understanding that you have options and knowing what they are and when to turn to them will enable you take charge of your general health and equipping you an upper hand over the condition.
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