Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease that affects the blood and connective tissue.

There are two main types of lupus. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) affects the exposed areas of the skin and sometimes the joints. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is more serious and potentially fatal condition that affects the body`s organs in addition to the blood and connective tissues.

Lupus symptoms vary according to the severity of the illness and the affected organs. SLE can strike abruptly, accompanied by fever and mimicking an acute infection. But it can also occur slowly over months, even years, exhibiting only sporadic episodes of fever and fatigue. Most people with SLE complain of pain in various joints that mimics arthritis, or in children it simulates growing pains. In adults, there is often a history of growing pains. Over time, muscular contraction may deform the joints.

Many patients also manifest rashes on their face, neck, upper chest, and/or elbows. In DLE, the rash starts as red, circular thickened areas that leave scars, most often affecting the face and scalp, and can also cause permanent hair loss. In SLE, there is a characteristic "butterfly-shaped" rash that occurs on the cheeks and over the bridge of the nose. Rashes in SLE patients do not scar and do not cause permanent hair loss.

Ulcers on mucous membranes such as the mouth and nose are also common. Swelling of the hands and fingers can occur, as well, as can sensitivity to light, kidney disorders, pleurisy (inflammation of lining of the lungs), pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart), iron deficiency, anemia, and high blood pressure. Swelling of lymph nodes is also common, especially in children.

SLE is considered as mild if the symptoms are mainly fever, joint pain, rash, headaches, pleurisy, and pericarditis. It is considered severe if it is associated with life-threatening diseases. Severe SLE requires immediate corticosteroid therapy, which can only be administered under a doctor`s care. Since SLE is often chronic, with periods of improvement and relapse over many years, years of remission can occur in between periods of symptoms. This does not necessarily mean that the disease is gone. To be sure, you may need blood tests for antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and sometimes skin biopsies.

Note: According to the American Rheumatoid Association, four of the following eight symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of lupus: ANA antibodies in the blood, low white blood cell or platelet count or hemolytic anemia, joint pain in a number of joints (arthritis), butterfly rash on cheeks, abnormal cells in the urine, light sensitivity, mouth sores, and seizure or psychosis.

Food allergies (there is a 100% correlation between lupus and food allergies), rheumatoid arthritis, other connective tissue diseases, parasites, candidiasis, bowel problems, and digestive enzyme deficiencies can create symptoms that mimic or exacerbate SLE. Migraines, epilepsy, and psychoses must also be ruled out before a proper course of treatment can be decided upon.

Both forms of lupus primarily strike young women (90% of cases) and young children.

The drugs hydralazine, procainamide, and beta blockers can cause false-positive readings of SLE, and can also produce a lupus-like condition that disappears when the drugs are no longer taken. Birth control pills and environmental stresses can also exacerbate lupus symptoms.


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