You have no doubt heard of lupus, but you may have a few questions about it, such as:
- What is lupus?
- Who gets lupus?
- Are there different types of lupus?
What Is Lupus?
First of all, you should know that lupus is considered an autoimmune disease. This is where the immune system begins to attack healthy, normal tissue in the body. The symptoms are: damage to the skin, blood, joints, heart, kidneys, and lungs, as well as inflammation and swelling.
Under normal circumstances, your immune system makes antibodies, which are there to protect your body against invasion of viruses and bacteria. However, lupus causes your immune system to get confused and can no longer tell the difference between good and bad cells. This causes the immune system to send out antibodies to attack your healthy tissues instead of antigens, which causes swelling, pain, and damage to the tissue.
Who is at Risk?
The Lupus Foundation of American has said that around 2 million Americans are affected by one of the types of lupus. This disease affects both men and women, but women are diagnosed more often than men. Usually, a lupus diagnosis is given between the ages of 15-45. The symptoms are much more severe in African-American women. Additionally, these women have a much higher mortality rate. There are a few factors that contribute to lupus, such as: exposure to sunlight, specific medications, specific chemicals, and Epstein-Barr virus.
You should know that there are several different types of lupus. The one that is simply referred to as “lupus” is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE. Other types of lupus include: neonatal, discoid, and drug-induced.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
This type of lupus is more severe than discoid lupus. The organs and the organ systems of the body are affected by SLE. In some cases, individuals will only have problems and inflammation with their skin and joints. However, others who have SLE will have problems with their joints, blood, kidneys, lungs, and heart. Individuals suffering from SLE will have flare-ups of their symptoms, when the condition is active as well as periods of what is called remission, where the condition lies dormant.
This form of lupus is very rare, and happens when a mother who has lupus gives birth. She passes the autoantibodies on to the baby. The newborn, or even the fetus, will have complications with their heart and their blood as well as skin rashes. Newborns typically have a rash that will appear, but then will fade after approximately 6 months.
Discoid (Cutaneous) Lupus
This form of lupus is limited to the skin. Individuals who have this form of lupus will have a rash appear on their face, neck, and scalp. This form of lupus does not affect the internal organs of an individual. This type of lupus could progress to SLE, but only does so in less than 10% of patients. There is no way to predict and prevent the path that this condition will take.
This form of lupus is a reaction to specific prescription medications. The symptoms of drug-induced lupus are very similar to those of SLE. However, once an individual stops taking the medication, drug-induced lupus will generally clear up. Drugs that are commonly associated with drug-induced lupus are as followed: hydralazine, which is a medication to treat hypertension, and procainamide, which is a drug to treat heart conditions. There are around 400 other medications that could possibly cause drug-induced lupus- so check with your doctor if you have lupus symptoms after beginning a new medication.
Natural Lupus Treatments
Lupus is a life-threatening condition, so it is necessary that you seek medical treatment instead of trying to treat it on your own. However, you can speak with your physician about using some natural, at-home remedies to help reduce your symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to help with reduction of inflammation. You can increase your intake of this necessary nutrient by consuming oily fish (sardines, herring, salmon), eating flaxseeds, or by taking an omega-3 supplement every day.
Though they haven’t specifically been studied in individuals with lupus, anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric or ginger could be helpful for those who are suffering with arthritis-like symptoms, such as pain and inflammation.
Using mind/body therapies such as guided imagery and hypnotherapy could help you deal with the stress that accompanies lupus. For additional help with alleviating and coping with stress, make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep (take naps during the day if you’re able to) and sufficient exercise (this will increase your mobility). Ask your physician about the best types of exercise for you- and how much you should be doing.
Some research has shown that DHEA could possibly enhance quality of life for individuals suffering from lupus. However, though it does show promise as a complementary treatment, using DHEA could actually increase your risk for heart attack and some types of cancer. Therefore, you should only use DHEA supplements under the strict supervision of your physician.
Consider getting acupuncture to treat your lupus symptoms. Acupuncture “opens” up the “blocked” pathways and helps your body to heal itself. Additionally, consider aromatherapy- use essential oils such as lavender and chamomile to help you reach a state of relaxation. Also, pine or cedar tree essential oils can relieve the pain in your joints. However, a word of caution, never use essential oils without diluting them in water or some sort of carrier oil.
As mentioned, lupus is a life-threatening condition. Though the above treatments can help to control your symptoms, you will still need to seek help from a medical professional to treat the cause of your lupus and help you to get through the disease. There is currently no cure, but there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and make the disease much more tolerable.