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Access tailored treatment for lupus, a chronic condition that affects each person differently
Many people visit Circle Health Group hospitals for diagnosis and treatment of lupus every year.
Lupus is a non-contagious condition that typically affects more women than men. Anyone can develop lupus, but approximately 90% of people living with lupus are women. Most people with lupus will develop it aged 15-44.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system cannot distinguish between possible dangers to the body, and healthy tissue and organs. The result is a hyperactive immune system that causes inflammation and pain in any part of your body.
Lupus cases can range between mild and severe. In most cases, lupus is not life-threatening, but the disease can cause serious damage to organs such as your heart or kidneys that may be fatal if not treated properly.
However, there are four types of lupus:
Individuals with cutaneous lupus and neonatal lupus are at a slightly higher risk of developing SLE later in life.
The most commonly experienced symptoms of lupus include:
Lupus can have many different symptoms. For this reason, it has been called the ‘disease with 1000 faces’. Additional symptoms and signs of lupus may include:
Lupus affects each person differently, and the symptoms can mimic many other illnesses, which can make it very hard to accurately diagnose the condition.
A combination of physical examinations, blood tests, urine tests and a thorough review of family history and symptoms can lead to a diagnosis. If you have lupus, getting a correct diagnosis can be frustrating. It can be helpful to keep track of your symptoms as they come and go and change over time.
Unfortunately, some GPs don’t always have as much knowledge of lupus as they could, so you should be persistent in following up on your diagnosis. As there is no one test that can determine lupus, you will likely have to exercise patience, as it can take time to rule out other conditions.
“For a dermatologist,” he says, “chronic discoid lupus or even acute lupus is reasonably straightforward to diagnose because the condition tends to have fairly typical features. Once you learn to suspect it, there are some tests that you can do that can help you to make the diagnosis. So it's not difficult for a specialist, but certainly, it can be quite tricky for a GP.”
If you think you might have lupus, make an appointment with one of our specialists today.
It is not known what causes lupus. Lupus is likely caused by a combination of genetic, hormonal and environmental factors.
Although lupus can affect anyone, some groups are more at risk:
Since women of childbearing age are more likely to get lupus, researchers believe there may be a link between the hormone oestrogen and lupus. However, this is not fully understood at this time.
You are more likely to get lupus if a member of your family has lupus or another autoimmune disorder. 20% of people with lupus will have a parent or sibling who already has lupus or may develop lupus.
Although it’s impossible to pinpoint specific causes in most cases of lupus, there are several environmental factors that can play a role in triggering the condition in combination with certain genetic markers.
These triggers could include:
The danger of SLE is that the inflammation caused by the disease can cause damage to any number of your organs. SLE can affect the systems of the body in several ways.
Other complications include an increased risk of infection due to the disease itself and the medications used to treat it.
Approximately one-third of people with SLE will develop lupus nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). This potentially serious condition can lead to kidney failure if untreated.
Lupus nephritis does not always have symptoms at first. Once the kidneys become impaired, you might experience high blood pressure, swelling in your feet and lower legs (oedema), dizziness, foamy or bloody urine or elevated proteins in your urine.
If you are diagnosed with lupus, your doctor will prescribe regular blood tests to monitor the condition of your kidneys.
Women with lupus can have healthy pregnancies, but they are considered high-risk. Lupus can increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and pre-eclampsia (a dangerous condition of high blood pressure).
Some medications taken for lupus are not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, so it is always important to discuss pregnancy plans with your doctor or obstetrician.
The risk for complications is higher during flares or periods of poorly controlled lupus. For this reason, doctors recommend that women with lupus should have their condition under control for at least six months before getting pregnant.
If you would like to learn more about pregnancy and lupus, make an appointment with an obstetrician today.
Your treatment will depend on the severity of your condition and the symptoms you experience.
There can be side effects to many of the drugs you might commonly be prescribed, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of any treatment.
Common medications for lupus might include:
In cases that do not respond to other medications, belimumab or rituximab might be prescribed. These drugs work by limiting the number of antibodies made by the body’s immune system. Common side effects can include flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhoea and dizziness.
Many of these medications are not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, so it’s important to use effective contraception if you are taking these medications. If you want to become pregnant, you should first talk to your doctor.
You should see your doctor regularly to inform them of new symptoms, discuss any side effects of medication, and undergo regular preventative screening.
Effective lupus treatment involves preventative care to limit damage to the body’s internal systems. Depending on your specific risk levels, doctors might schedule routine kidney tests, cancer screenings and blood pressure tests.
In the course of your treatment, you will likely need to see various doctors and specialists. In addition to your GP, it’s common to see a rheumatologist, who specialises in diseases of the joints and muscles like lupus. You might also see nephrologists (kidney specialists), clinical immunologists, dermatologists, obstetricians, renal experts or cardiologists.
If you have lupus, the following lifestyle changes can help keep you healthy and prevent flare-ups.
“There are two important things that you have to do to control your potential adverse reaction. The first is sun avoidance. It is very important. Although lupus is not caused by sun, lupus can be triggered by the sun. And total sun avoidance is very important, especially with chronic lupus. And the other thing that's even more important for some subtypes like SLE lupus is smoking. If you don't stop smoking, it is very difficult to control your lupus.”
– Dr Agustin Martin-Clavijo, Consultant Dermatologist, The Priory Hospital
It is very common for people living with chronic health conditions to experience depression. Chronic pain, stress and uncertainty can contribute to feelings of hopelessness.
Stress, anxiety and depression can all make your lupus symptoms worse or trigger a flare-up.
If you think you are suffering from depression, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Therapy, antidepressants, exercise and a good support system are all methods of coping with depression.
If you would like to speak to a mental health professional, get in touch today.
Many individuals with lupus turn to alternative therapies to help treat their condition. This could include herbal supplements, fish oil pills or acupuncture. You should always talk to your doctor before starting any new therapy.
Dr Martin-Clavijo says that “the main problem is a lot of the ‘organic’ or Chinese remedies that they sell you say they are a very natural remedy, but they are full of steroids. So you have to be very careful of what you buy and where you buy it.”
Although anecdotally people with lupus report that acupuncture is helpful with joint pain, there has not been extensive research done on alternative therapies and their effectiveness on lupus. Some herbal medicines might not be safe to take with your prescribed medication, and some supplements might even worsen your symptoms.
You should always discuss any treatment with your doctor before starting.
Getting a proper diagnosis can be challenging because lupus mimics many other diseases. You might need to see several specialists and undergo several tests before getting a diagnosis. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can find a treatment plan that works for you.
If you have lupus, you will need to be an advocate for your own health. It can help to keep a detailed account of your symptoms to see how your medications and lifestyle affect your symptoms. You’ll need to be proactive about seeing your doctor, undergoing regular screening to check for organ damage, and living a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Living with a chronic condition is challenging. The good news is that with proper self-care and medical treatment, you can minimise your symptoms and maximise your ability to live your life to the fullest.
Speak with one of our experts today about how we can help you manage your lupus better.
If you want to know more about treatment for lupus, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.