Under normal circumstances, your body’s immune system is tasked with defending you from outside invaders. But what happens when this protective system misreads the situation and launches an attack — on your own body? Nothing good.
Called autoimmune disorders, these diseases come in many forms, including lupus, a potentially all-encompassing condition that mostly affects women.
Here at HealthFirst, Dr. Jonathan Singer specializes in autoimmune disorders like lupus, which are notoriously misunderstood.
Well, we want to shed some light and share what we know. To that end, we’re reviewing some lupus basics, including four of the more common signs of lupus.
Lupus by the numbers
Because there's no single test that can be used to diagnose lupus, we’re unsure about exact numbers. As of now, research suggests that the number of Americans with lupus ranges from 161,000 to 1.5 million.
While we may not be entirely clear on how many people have lupus, we are clear about the fact that the disease affects women far more than men — 9 out of 10 people with lupus are women. As well, the disease tends to strike women during their reproductive years, meaning between the ages of 15 and 44.
Types of lupus
Making matters more complex, there are different types of lupus, including:
- Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), causes inflammation throughout multiple organs
- Cutaneous lupus, which affects the skin
- Drug-induced lupus, which is a temporary response to taking certain medications
- Neonatal lupus, which is babies who are born with lupus
The first form of lupus, SLE, is the most common form of the disease, making up about 70% of cases.
Common side effects of lupus
Since there’s no test for lupus, we evaluate symptoms to determine whether lupus may be present. We want to underscore the fact that no two people have the same exact symptoms, and they can come in different combinations and degrees of severity.
At the heart of lupus is an attack your body launches on your body that can affect any organ and lead to inflammation. While symptoms can vary, there are some hallmarks of lupus that we want to cover here, which include:
1. Joint pain
Many women with lupus experience joint and muscle pain, and often swelling, though not always. This pain can affect any part of the body, but it does tend to favor certain areas, such as the neck, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms.
When you have lupus, there’s often inflammation, which can lead to a higher body temperature as your body responds. As a result, you can have fevers that may be on the lower end — about 100°F — but they’re fairly constant.
3. Skin rashes
Many women with lupus develop rashes or areas of redness on their skin, especially areas that are exposed to the sun. This skin symptom can affect any part of your body, but often develops on your nose and cheeks.
4. Chest pain when you breathe
The chest pain and discomfort associated with lupus occurs when you take a deep breath in.
There are many other potential symptoms of lupus, such as mouth sores, fatigue, headaches, and hair loss, but the above are some of the more common.
If you’re experiencing any combination of the symptoms we outline above and you can’t figure out why, it’s a very good idea to come see us for an evaluation.
If we find lupus, we don’t just treat the symptoms. Instead, we focus our efforts on finding ways to detox your human body, reestablish metabolic order, and boost nutritional health to get to the source of the lupus.
If you have more questions about lupus or you’d like us to evaluate your health, please contact one of our offices in Greenwood Village, Colorado, or Cheyenne, Wyoming, to schedule an appointment.