Debunking invisible illnesses: Lupus (Part 2)
1 Oct 2018 HEALTH & WELLNESS
By: Natasha Archary
When American songbird Selena Gomez, posted pictures about her kidney transplant due to Lupus other silent sufferers of the invisible condition shared messages of support. In September 2017, the singer’s friend donated a kidney to her which was vital to Selena’s survival. Her lupus was progressing at an alarming rate.
Much like rheumatoid arthritis or RA, lupus is a vicious autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks it’s own tissues. And like RA there is no cure, just treatment.
Breaking down Lupus
Inflammation from lupus can affect many organs including the heart, brain, kidneys and lungs as well as blood cells, joints and the skin. No two cases of lupus are the same, in some instances coming on suddenly; in others developing gradually. Symptoms may be mild or severe, temporary or permanent also known as flares.
Many are born with the lupus gene which may be triggered by medication, sunlight or an infection. The signs or symptoms are not set in stone and depends on which body system is being affected by the condition. Some of the symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Butterfly shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose. You may also develop a rash elsewhere on the body.
- Exposure to sunlight will cause skin lesions to worsen.
- Fingers and toes turn white or blue when exposed to cold.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
Complications from the disease
Lupus has been linked to increasing the risk to cancer. People with lupus are more vulnerable to infection with a weakened immune system, it may make recovering from a simple flu that much more stressful on your body.
Other complications include bone tissue death. This is when blood supply to the bone diminishes leading to brittle bones, tiny breaks and eventually collapse. Of course, lupus increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage. It’s not advised to try for a baby until the condition is in remission for at least six months.
Like RA those with lupus need to consult a rheumatologist. A regular GP is not going to be able to get your condition under control like a specialist can. Treatment options are similar to RA with the low grade chemotherapy tablet, Methotrexate being the most popular choice to keep the condition under control.
Steroids and other anti-inflammatory medication will always be prescribed and your specialist will want to keep tabs on your progress or flares so keep a journal to help you remember the good and bad days.
Many people are living with invisible conditions and may not know it. Avoiding the doctor and ignoring the signs your body is sending you is not going to help in the long run. With numerous lifestyle changes, the on set of chronic conditions like RA and lupus occur as early as your late twenties, early thirties. It’s important to get a full blood screen at least once a year.
Any condition can cause depression, isolation and self-esteem issues; there are a number of online support groups for those with chronic conditions like lupus or RA. It’s not something you have to go through alone.