Lupus Defined : The Autoimmune Enigma

Have you been feeling unexplainably tired lately and running a low-grade fever on and off? No matter how many hours you spend in bed, you feel like you’ll never get enough rest to function properly. Has a strange never-seen-before butterfly-shaped rash emerged on your face after a few harmless hours in the sun? If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, there is a small chance you might be suffering from Lupus, a disease in which your immune system turns against the body parts it’s supposed to protect and starts attacking them instead.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what Lupus actually is: it is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when someone has a weak immune system, or an overactive immune system and the antibodies start to attack the own body as a way to fight off an infection/foreign body. Signs and symptoms of the disease tend to last a long time (from six weeks to several years). Most patients complain from fatigue, skin rash after sun exposure, joint pain with stiffness in the morning, rapid hair loss, numbness in the fingers, ulcers, headaches and chest pain.

Before you start googling your symptoms and fearing the worst, though, please make sure you visit your local rheumatologist, a specialist in autoimmune diseases. Being misdiagnosed can not only cost you time and money but can lead to Lupus silently attacking every organ in your body leading to fatal results.

The cause of Lupus remains a mystery, however, there are a few factors discovered by researchers that can contribute to the development of Lupus such as genetic, hormonal, immunologic and environmental factors. While Lupus cannot be cured, the survival rate of people has dramatically increased over the last several decades to over 90 per cent of patients having a normal lifespan. Patients will require regular monitoring by a rheumatologist to optimize both non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic therapies to achieve the best possible outcome.

Lupus is a bit of an enigma and unfortunately, it is not as widely talked about as it should be. However, in recent years, celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Tony Braxton and Seal – who suffer from the disease themselves – have raised quite a lot of awareness, and It has been a trending hot topic on social media. In this region unfortunately, we do not have any spokespeople and for the most part, Lupus remains a mystery, even though many are silently suffering.

(Credit: Dr. Irena Khostanteen, Consultant Rheumatologist at Capital Health’s Health Shield Medical Center)