Do People With Lupus Die – If you’ve had symptoms of lupus or your doctor thinks you may have lupus, you may be Googling like crazy or wondering what this means for your future? How will they treat you? Will you feel healthy/normal again? What exactly is lupus?
No one is sure what causes lupus, but doctors know that the symptoms occur when your immune system isn’t working as it should. Your immune system cells, which are supposed to protect the body from various bacteria, start treating normal, healthy cells as invaders, attacking them and causing inflammation that can affect the joints, kidneys, and almost any other system in the body.
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Lupus symptoms vary from person to person, from severity to body part affected. Some of the most common symptoms of lupus are a rash and joint pain, but symptoms can also include fatigue, hair loss, mouth sores, and fever, says MD. Konstantinos Loupasakis, a rheumatologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “We see a wide range of manifestations of lupus,” he said.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women of reproductive age (ages 15 to 44) have the highest risk of developing lupus, but the disease is not limited to young adults. According to one study, 10% to 20% of people with systemic lupus are diagnosed before age 18.
People of color – especially African Americans – have a higher risk of developing lupus than white people, and the disease often affects different groups of people differently. Native American and black patients have higher death rates than white patients, while Hispanic and Asian patients have a lower risk of developing lupus, according to a study of 42,000 lupus cases. (Read more about stroke risk in black and Hispanic lupus patients.) There appears to be a genetic component to the disease, but researchers are investigating how socioeconomic and other factors may influence this difference.
The study also found that men are more prone to damage in the early stages of the disease and have a lower survival rate. Hormones may play a role in gender differences, Dr. Loupasakis said, but research has yet to find definitive answers.
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The symptoms of lupus are vague and require regular monitoring, so if your GP suspects an autoimmune problem such as lupus, they must refer you to a specialist. “When there is concern that you [may have] lupus, a rheumatologist should be involved in evaluating the diagnosis,” says Jason Liebowitz, MD, a rheumatology researcher at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Once diagnosed, a lupus patient may see a rheumatologist about every three months, Dr. Loupasakis added.
Because lupus causes the immune system to become active, doctors will want to test for certain antibodies to see what’s happening at the cellular level. People with autoimmune problems usually have high levels of antinuclear antibodies (ANA), and about 98 percent of people with systemic lupus have a positive blood test for ANA.
But this does not mean that everyone who is ANA positive has lupus. According to a 2012 study, about 14 percent of the general US population tested positive for ANA, regardless of whether they had lupus or not, so doctors can’t rely on a single test to diagnose lupus.
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Without a single blood test to diagnose lupus, rheumatologists must get the full picture. “There is no one finding that defines the diagnosis of lupus,” said Dr. Liebowitz. “This is a disease that can affect the body in many different ways, so the diagnosis needs to bring together the entire clinical picture.”
When rheumatologists suspect an autoimmune problem, they take your symptoms into account while examining X-rays, blood tests, and biopsies to determine if the results are what they expect for lupus or if it’s more likely another disease.
Other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and Lyme disease have the same symptoms as lupus. Without a specific blood test that indicates lupus or another autoimmune disease, rheumatologists will sometimes need trial and error to determine an accurate diagnosis.
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At this time, scientists have yet to find a cure for lupus. However, chronic illness is not a death sentence. Women with lupus-related kidney inflammation have a life expectancy nearly comparable to that of women of the same age in the general population, according to a study that shows lupus mortality has improved over time with the use of new drugs.
Medicines cannot cure lupus, but they can prevent the onset of the disease. Available medications can suppress the immune system, suppressing antibodies that can cause inflammation. “The most important treatment for lupus is a drug called Plaquenil [hydroxychloroquine]. Basically, everyone who has lupus should be taking this drug,” Dr. Liebowitz said. “Other medications for lupus—which may include mycophenolate mofetil, cyclophosphamide, and other immunosuppressive drugs—depend on the symptoms of lupus and the parts of the body affected.” A rheumatologist will be able to recommend the most effective treatment for a particular patient. the best treatment options.
There are many types of lupus, but most people mention the most common one: systemic lupus erythematosus, also known as SLE or systemic lupus. About 70 percent of people with lupus have SLE, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. It is usually more serious and more likely to affect major organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, or heart, than other types of lupus.
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People with systemic lupus develop rashes, but some patients have discoid lupus, which means they may only have rashes and skin lesions, without the joint pain, kidney problems, and other symptoms of SLE. About 17 people with discoid lupus will later see their disease become systemic, according to a Swedish study
When some people take certain medications, including isoniazid, hydralazine, and procainamide, their bodies can overreact and begin to experience lupus-like symptoms. They usually have symptoms like low-grade fever, joint pain and swelling, or occasionally a rash, but more serious symptoms like kidney inflammation usually don’t appear, Dr. Loupasakis said.
This condition differs from “true” systemic lupus because it is not chronic. “In most of these patients, after they stopped taking the drug, their symptoms disappeared within a few weeks,” Dr. Loupasakis said.
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Sometimes a mother who has lupus or the antibodies associated with it can pass those antibodies on to her newborn, causing a type of lupus called neonatal lupus. “‘Bad’ antibodies are passed from mother to baby along with ‘good’ antibodies, which should protect babies during the first few months of life,” said Dr. Loupasakis.
Typically, the result is lupus-like skin lesions that disappear after a few months, and then the baby starts making its own antibodies, he said. In rare cases, children of mothers with these antibodies develop a condition called congenital heart block, but mothers-to-be with lupus should not stress. According to one study, only 2% to 5% of babies born to mothers with these antibodies will develop congenital heart block.
These problems can be detected during pregnancy by ultrasound and can be treated immediately after the birth of the child by implanting a pacemaker to help regulate the electrical activity of the heart.
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If left unchecked, widespread inflammation in the body can lead to serious complications. With lupus, kidney damage is a big problem. According to one study, about 40% to 70% of people with lupus have kidney inflammation
“Unfortunately, we see this very often, especially in patients who don’t come to us early,” Dr. Loupasakis said. Lupus patients with kidney disease or failure had a life expectancy three to ten years shorter than lupus patients without kidney problems, according to a study of 700 patients in Hong Kong.
Indirectly, lupus can lead to cardiovascular problems. Lupus does not directly affect the heart, but the inflammation caused by the disease can speed up the formation of blood clots, Dr. Loupasakis said. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with a history of lupus older than five years, study shows
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One thing you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease is to eat a healthy Mediterranean diet that focuses on healthy vegetables and seafood and avoids red meat, Dr. Loupasakis suggests.
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