Also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), lupus is an auto-immune condition that causes the immune system to make antibodies that attack healthy tissue. Lupus can attack different organs including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart and brain, and causes pain and inflammation.
Diagnosing lupus can be hard. The condition can affect almost any organ in the body, and symptoms can be very different from patient to patient. Your doctor will ask you questions about what symptoms you have been experiencing and will do a physical exam to check your pain and reflexes. Your doctor will probably order some additional testing to confirm a diagnosis:
- Blood work to look for anemia or other abnormalities in the blood
- Urine test to look for blood or abnormal protein levels
- Antinuclear antibody (ANA) blood testing to look for certain antibodies that help diagnose lupus. If a patient tests positive for ANA, they most likely have lupus.
Treatment of Lupus depends on what organs are affected. There is not a cure for lupus, but there are medicines that can help with symptoms. Someone with lupus might take:
- Corticosteroids to control inflammation
- Immunosuppressive drugs to lower the body's immune response
- Antimalarial drugs to help treat skin rashes and joint pain
- Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, for joint and muscle pain
Doctors may also recommend that patients with lupus:
- Avoid the sun as much as possible and always wear sunscreen and protective clothing
- Exercise regularly to help with the tiredness and joint stiffness