Lupus in Women
What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that is more likely to affect women than men. Like other autoimmune diseases, it involves the immune system mistaking healthy cells, tissues, and organs with viruses and bacteria causing the body to attack itself. It can affect any part of the body.
There are different types of lupus that vary in terms of who they affect, why they occur, and the resulting symptoms. This article will discuss the disease, its symptoms, and possible treatments.
What are the Different Types of Lupus?
There are four main types of lupus as follows:
Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): This is the most common and most serious type of lupus. It affects all parts of the body. Symptoms include fatigue, hair loss, sensitivity to the sun, joint inflammation and pain, skin rashes, unexplained fever, and kidney problems.
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE): This type of lupus affects the skin only. It can occur in conjunction with SLE or on its own. Symptoms include rashes, hair loss, swollen blood vessels, sun sensitivity, and ulcers.
CLE can further be broken down into the following categories:
- Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE): This condition is characterized by red rashes that become scaly and may turn brown that usually appear on the face or scalp. Other symptoms may include scarring and sores in the mouth and nose. DLE can develop to become SLE.
- Subacute Lupus Erythematosus: This causes skin lesions to appear in areas exposed to the sun.
Drug-Induced Lupus: Drug-induced lupus is the result of a reaction to medications, typically ones used to treat seizures, high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms include joint pain, muscle pain, and fever. The condition will usually go away when medication is stopped.
Neonatal Lupus: Neonatal lupus occurs in babies. It is due to antibodies passed on by the mother. Typically, the mother of the child will also have lupus, but this is not always the case. However, if the child has lupus and the mother does not, the mother may develop it later in life. Symptoms include skin rash, low blood cell count, and liver problems. The condition will usually go away in time with no lasting effects. Not all mothers with lupus will pass it on to their babies.
What are the Five Signs of Lupus?
Symptoms of lupus may vary but the main five signs are:
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Low-grade fever
What Causes Lupus in Women?
Researchers are still looking into what causes lupus in women. While genetics may play a role, even women with lupus in the family have only a small chance of getting it. Here are some other factors that may increase risk.
- Sunlight, stress, and certain medications may trigger symptoms.
- Hormones and estrogen- lupus is most likely to develop in childbearing years when estrogen levels are high.
- Immune system issues.
What is the Life Expectancy of a Woman with Lupus?
Lupus can cause untimely death, usually due to liver failure. However, due to current treatments, most women with the condition will live a normal life span. Only 10-15% will have shorter lives.
How Can You Manage Lupus?
Lupus can be managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle management includes:
- Seeing doctors regularly
- Taking steps to reduce stress
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Doing moderate exercise
- Limiting time in the sun
- Eating a healthy diet
Medications that treat the condition include:
- Over-the-counter NSAIDs that treat pain, swelling, and fever.
- Anti-malarial drugs that reduce lupus flair-ups.
- Corticosteroids that reduce inflammation.
- Immunosuppressants suppress the immune system.
- Biologics may help people who haven’t benefited from other types of lupus treatments.
Lupus is not easy to deal with, but it can be treated and managed. Now that you know more about the disease, you can take steps to relieve symptoms in yourself or a loved one. Here’s wishing you a long, healthy life.