What causes lupus?
The exact cause of lupus is unknown and, at present, there is no cure. Lupus can be fatal.
Who gets lupus?
Lupus affects approximately 1 in 2000 Canadians. Although anyone can be diagnosed with lupus, it is most commonly diagnosed in women of child-bearing age.
Lupus is not contagious or infectious, but it can develop in more than one member of a family.
What are the symptoms?
People living with lupus may have many different symptoms. The most common are extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints (arthritis), unexplained fever, skin rashes or lesions, an unusual reaction to sunlight, swelling of the feet and legs, and chest pains when laying down or taking deep breaths.
Lupus patients may also develop ulcers in the eyes, nose, mouth or vagina, and Sjögren's Syndrome (dry eyes). Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight changes.
For some patients, more serious disease can involve the internal organs and the brain.
The heart and lungs may be affected. Pericarditis, myocarditis, pleuritis, endocarditis, and pneumonitis can develop. If a patient develops lupus nephritis (lupus of the kidney), they may be at risk of edema, hypertension, proteinurea, cell casts, and renal failure.
Blood disorders can include anemia, immune complexes, thrombocytopenia, circulating autoantibodies, as well as leukopenia and thrombosis.
Lupus can also cause complications in pregnancy, miscarriages, and menstrual irregularities.
Finally, if lupus attacks the central and peripheral nervous system, it may result in seizures, psychosis, neuropathies, cognitive dysfunction, and depression. Many lupus patients also experience an on-going low-grade fever.
Living with lupus
For most people, lupus may be characterized by periods of disease activity (flares) and periods of fewer symptoms. Developing strategies to prevent flares can be helpful, such as limiting exposure to sunlight and scheduling adequate rest and quiet time. Reduction of stressful situations is also important. Lupus flares are treated with medications, rest, and lifestyle changes.
EARLY DIAGNOSIS, PROPER TREATMENT, KNOWLEDGE AND HOPE ARE ESSENTIAL.
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Proceeds are donated to the Lupus Society Of Alberta in support of various programs. For more information on Lupus and to get involved locally please contact the Lupus Society Of Alberta.