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Lupus

What Is Lupus?

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) is a long-term autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks normal body tissues as though they were foreign substances, causing inflammation and tissue damage throughout the body. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, skin rashes, and muscle and joint pain.

Inflammation caused by lupus can affect the skin, the joints, and most other organ systems in the body, including the kidneys, heart, lungs, and nervous system. It causes a variety of symptoms depending on which organ systems are affected and how severely they are affected.

Some people may have severe episodes; others have a milder form of the disease. Symptoms of lupus may come and go in episodes called flares. There is no cure for lupus. Home treatment and, if needed, medications to control inflammation are the primary treatments.

The most common and serious type of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); the four other types are discoid/cutaneous, subacute cutaneous, drug-induced systemic, and neonatal lupus. Lupus is more common in women than in men.

Prevention

There is currently no way to prevent lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE).

Treatment

Treatment overview:
Your treatment choices for lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) depend on how severe your symptoms are, whether your organs are affected, and how much your symptoms are affecting your daily life. Your treatment plans should be tailored to your individual needs and will change over time, as the disease flares or ebbs. There currently is no cure for lupus.

You may be able to control your symptoms with self-care and medication. Self-care includes learning as much as possible about lupus, maintaining good communications with your health professional, and developing a healthy lifestyle. Medications that may be used to treat lupus include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, antimalarials, immunosuppressants, and biological therapy.
Initial treatment:
The goal of treatment for mild lupus is to prevent symptom flares—when fatigue, joint pain, and rash worsen. Maintain a schedule of regular checkups with your health professional, instead of waiting until your disease flares. When flares do occur, the goal is to treat them rapidly to limit any damage to body organs.
Treatment for mild lupus includes:
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Avoiding the sun. If you must be in the sun, cover your arms and legs, wear a hat, and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen (covering both UVA and UVB rays) with a high sun protection factor (40 SPF or higher) to protect your skin.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Applying corticosteroid cream for rashes.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and getting plenty of rest for mild joint pain and fever.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Taking antimalarial medications to treat fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and lung inflammation.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Taking low-dose corticosteroids if NSAIDs aren't effective in controlling your symptoms.
For more severe cases of lupus, treatment may include:
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Higher-dose corticosteroids, either in pills or by injection.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants).
Good self-care is essential to managing lupus. A healthy lifestyle may reduce the frequency and severity of flares, resulting in an improved quality of life. Self-care includes:
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Regular exercise.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Education about lupus and self-care.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Not smoking.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Eating a healthful, balanced diet.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Developing a support system of family, friends, and health professionals.

Treatment for the skin rash that many people develop with lupus may include sunscreens and sun avoidance, as well as medications, including antimalarials, corticosteroid creams and pills, immunosuppressants, and biologicals. Some treatments work for some people but not for others, and some treatments have long-term side effects. More research is needed to determine which of these treatments is safest and most effective.
Ongoing treatment
Progression of lupus varies by the individual. Flares and remissions can occur abruptly, unexpectedly, and without clear cause. The major goal for ongoing treatment of lupus is prevention or management of damage to the body organs, including the arteries, kidneys, bones, and brain.
To control mild but continuing symptoms of lupus, treatment includes:
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Avoiding the sun. If you must be in the sun, cover your arms and legs, wear a hat, and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen (covering both UVA and UVB rays) with a high sun protection factor (40 SPF or higher) to protect your skin.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Applying corticosteroid cream for rashes.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and getting plenty of rest for mild joint pain and fever.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Taking antimalarial medications to treat fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and lung inflammation.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Taking low-dose corticosteroids if NSAIDs aren't effective in controlling your symptoms.
If your lupus symptoms are more severe and damage to organs is threatened, treatment may include:
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Corticosteroids in higher dose, for serious complications needing longer-term treatment.
   ball1.gif (1653 bytes) Medication that suppresses your immune system (immunosuppressants).
Source: WebMD
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