Lupus is one of the most unforgiving diseases out there – and one of the most mysterious ones too. In the 18th century when people started to get acquainted with the existence of this disease, the large number of symptoms and the odd behavior was very confusing for the doctors back then and they thought that it was caused by a wolf bite. This is how “lupus” (meaning “wolf” in Latin) got its name.
These days, we know that lupus cannot be caused by a wolf bite as people who have never even seen a wolf in real life can suffer from this disease. And yet, other than that, we are still not very certain on the causes that can lead to the development of this disease. Debates are still going on both over the causes that could trigger the onset of lupus and on some of its symptoms. And, among these symptoms, “lupus headaches” are definitely among the most confusing ones. Are they “real” or are they just headaches derived from the other symptoms shown by the lupus patients? Read on and find out more.
Lupus: The Basics
Lupus is without any doubt one of the most misunderstood diseases there are. Autoimmune in nature, what lupus does to the human body is ruining the immune system. Naturally, the immune system of the human body generates cells meant to destroy foreign “invaders”, but in the case of lupus, these cells will attack the body’s healthy tissues. In general, lupus can affect people of all ages and it is more prevalent among the Native American, Latino American and African American ethnicities (and Caucasians and Asians appear to show the least risk in developing or dying from this condition).
It is also worth knowing that there are four types of lupus and that although similar in nature, they may need different kinds of treatment to be administered. The main lupus categories are the following:
1- Systemic lupus. This is the type of lupus that is most commonly encountered and it is the most dangerous one too. Systemic lupus can affect almost any system of the body from the heart to the lungs and from the blood cells to the kidneys, and for this reason it can show many symptoms.
2- Discoid lupus. This type of lupus mainly affects the skin and the main symptom shown is consisting of rashes that appear to be crusty and which can show a darker rim with a lighter mid-part. In most of the cases, the face, the neck and the scalp will be the ones affected, but there are cases where the disease is spread on the entire surface of the body. Michael Jackson is one of the famous people who suffered from this kind of lupus.
3- Neonatal lupus. This disease is developed by newborns that are born out of mothers who are themselves suffering from systemic lupus. The symptoms shown by this type of lupus are limited and in most of the cases the baby will develop a rash on the hand during the first week of life. Under certain circumstances though, heart block can appear too.
4- Drug-induced lupus. This particular form of lupus is induced by certain types of drugs (such as hydralazine and procainamide for example) and it shows the same symptoms as systematic lupus.
Clueless or Not? The Causes that Could Lead to Lupus
Unfortunately, scientists have not been able to figure out what it is exactly that causes lupus. Most of them agree that certain genetic factors combined with environmental factors can contribute a lot to whether or not a person will develop this autoimmune disease. Apparently, genes that deal with the immune system appear different in the case of lupus patients and a series of other genes are modified as well, but medical researchers also agree that genetic factors alone cannot be the only cause for lupus.
Lupus Symptoms and the Lupus Headache
There are many symptoms people with lupus in its various forms can show. Some of them include joint pain, arthritis, swelling of the legs and eyes, hair loss, photosensitivity (which in itself is very mysterious and can be triggered by multiple factors as well), malaise, fatigue, uneasiness, mouth sores, butterfly rashes (mostly on the face), chest pain and purple or white fingers (or toes).
The so-called “lupus headache” is quite debated in the medical world. On the one hand, there is a lot of evidence that headaches are a prevalent symptom among patients with lupus. The headaches can come in the form of tension headaches or in the form of migraines as well and it does not respond to the usual headache medication. The official definition of the lupus headache is much debated as well, because it considers lupus headaches are severe and persistent, but there is no quantifier for these two adjectives.
Even more than that, it appears that there are many pieces of evidence able to sustain the idea that the lupus headache is a symptom in its own right, but even so, there is no consensus over whether it should or should not be included in the lupus symptomology as such.
Can Lupus Be Cured?
Because medical researchers have not been able to find the real reason lupus occurs in certain people, no cure has been developed. Thus, the treatment administered for patients suffering from this disease are mostly symptomatic. Most commonly, immunodepressive medication will be administered alongside with several other types of medication meant to ease the symptoms (reducing the pain, the inflammation, making sure that no further complications arise and so on). Each person can experience lupus differently and the treatment will be tailored to suit the symptoms they show.
In the United States, no drug meant to treat lupus has been approved in the last half of a century (except for belimumab, which was approved in 2011 by the FDA), but research is being made and there are certain drugs that are in the testing period so soon enough some of them may be available on the market too.