Systemic lupus erythematosus, also commonly referred to as lupus or SLE, is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart, nervous system and other organs of the body. It is not uncommon for symptoms associated with lupus to resemble symptoms associated with other types of arthritis and rheumatic disease, making lupus difficult to diagnose.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. have lupus. People of African, Asian and Native American descent are more likely to develop lupus than are Caucasians. Although it can occur in both men and women, 90% of people diagnosed with the disease are women. Women of childbearing age (14 to 45 years old) are most often affectedas many as 1 in 250 may develop lupus.

In lupus, the regulation of the immune system goes awry and the body produces autoantibodies (antibodies that attack the patient’s own tissues). This reaction results in inflammation that causes redness, pain and swelling in the affected parts of the body.

Lupus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex system within the body that is designed to fight infectious agents, for example, bacteria, and other foreign invaders.
Some patients with lupus have a very mild condition, which can be treated with simple medications, whereas others can have serious, life-threatening complications. Lupus is more common in women than men, and its peak incidence is after pubertythe reason for this is unknown.

Memory problems bother patients on a day-to-day basis. This is a huge problem, and we don’t know why. In lupus patients, we are often overlooking fibromyalgia. Thirty percent of my patients have fibromyalgia. You are tired, you hurt, and nothing your doctor does helps. Fibromyalgia is not inflammatory. It is a resetting of the pain thermostat in the brain. I suspect it has more of an impact on your day-to-day life than your lupus, if your lupus is not flaring.

Lupus can affect anybody but the distribution is somewhat uneven. The disease is much more common in women, especially those of childbearing age, with ratio of women to men being around 9:1. The disease also appears to be more prevalent in women of African, Asian, Hispanic and Native American origin but the degree to which this is due to genetics or socioeconomic factors is unknown.

If you have lupus, your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. This can damage your joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. There are many kinds of lupus. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus, affects many parts of the body. Discoid lupus causes a rash that doesn’t go away. Subacute cutaneous lupus causes sores after being out in the sun. Another type can be caused by medication. Neonatal lupus, which is rare, affects newborns.

SLE (lupus) is an autoimmune disease. This means there is a problem with the body’s normal immune system response. But in patients with an autoimmune disease, the immune system can’t tell the difference between harmful substances and healthy ones. The result is an overactive immune response that attacks otherwise healthy cells and tissue. This leads to chronic (long-term) inflammation.


10 thoughts on “Medical Information On Lupus Disease

  1. Moriah D

    What are the chances a military spouse with lupus would get cleared for joining their husband in South Korea?
    My husband is stationed in South Korea and has recently been asked if he would like to extend his tour to get command sponsorship for his family. From what he has been told, they are trying to get everyone stationed there for longer periods of time like the other Army bases located in Europe. In other words, they are trying to make it a regular duty station. I have to enroll in the Exceptional Family Member Program because I have recently been diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosos. Then, from the medical records and physical I provide them, they will decide whether I qualify for placement overseas. I have not had any major complications with the disease, but I am on prednisone and plaquenil. My husband is really excited about the possiblilty of being together again and I would like to know as much as I can about the process and the probabilty of me being able to go. My husband was not placed at an army base in the states before he was shipped to Korea. He went to Korea right out of AIT. Basically, I am wanting information on the EFMP screening process and any additional thoughts that may be relevant. Any milspouses that have been in my situation, your advice and input will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for any ideas you can contribute. Happy Holidays to All!!! Thank you, again.

    1. Linda R

      I never have understood the rhyme or reason of the military, but I would get a letter from your rheumy and any other docs basically saying that your lupus is well controlled and that you have no major complications.

      I have SLE with multiple organ involvement, but am in remission now. What I have learned is that you should write the letter for the doctor, then let him or her edit it as they see fit. Doctors are busy and the easier you make it on them the more successful you are likely to be.

      Good luck to you. You might want to check and see that plaquenil will be available to you there or that you have a way to get it. Prednisone should be no problem.

  2. Jimmy1575

    Unexplained Symptoms and no diagnosis?
    My mother is having a terrible time getting to the bottom of her medical issue. Any good solid information is welcomed.

    She states:

    I have been diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis and Low Vitamin D.
    Although my labs show that I am in the early stages of the disease and there is no evidence that I have been affected by the disease (in the form of hypothyroidism) I have all the symptoms one could imagine.

    I have had every lab test I can think of and an ultrasound that showed goiters on my thyroid. Biopsy showed no cancer.

    I have had TSH, Free T4, T3, am still waiting on results for Free T3. I have had a full range of hormone test. I cannot think of anything I have not had that might tell me something, but then, I am not the doctor.

    I have been tested for Celiac Disease, Pernicious Anemia, Lupus low calcium and everything comes out negative, everything.

    I have strange symptoms that don’t seem to fit hypothyroidism, exactly, but could fit low T3 or low Dopamine. They are: poor balance, tingling in face, lips, and hands. In addition to the typical ones for hypothyroidism. I also am experiencing rather extreme jolts as I sleep, as if I am having a seizure and strange sensations in my legs, mostly left leg.

    So far, my doctors have no explanation. My endocrinologist agreed to put me on a very low dose of thyroid replacement. My neurologist thinks I would be helped with antidepressants. I have had one MRI to rule out MS and am having another to rule out further diagnosis of MS and may have a spinal tap to rule out any odd infections of the brain. I have symptoms of Parkinson’s, or rather, low dopamine.

    So, my next Dr. visit is with a Rheumatologist. I have also seen an alternative Dr. and am awaiting test results. He said it looked like MS and also thyroid issues. He feels, like me, that we are just missing one important piece of information. We are both hoping it is the Free T3.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Zambiti

      I’ve given you a star hoping my Alternative Medicine friends will see this. This is not an area I’m familiar with, but I know some of my friends are! If you post this question in the Alternative Medicine section, you might get some relevant answers.

      Hope your mom finds the answers.

      Oh, if you post in Alt Med, add any other medications she may be on to the question. It was actually medication issues when my mom was trying to sort through her issues. Once she dropped them, she did better. She also did better removing all fluoride and triclosan (antibacterial soaps, etc) from her life. She too was suffering from thyroid related issues, but had others like blood sugar problems in the mix. The fluoride and triclosan were things she needed to remove to get to the bottom of the thyroid issues.

  3. sxyblueyes0980

    Achy joints (Serious answers preferably from medical professional please)…?
    Okay, so I’m a medical professional too, but this is not my area of specialty and I’m curious for more information from someone who has personal experience, or from someone who is also a medical professional who knows more about this. Please give sources if you have them.
    Here’s the deal:
    I went to the doctor the other day because here lately (for about the last 2-3 mos) I have been EXTREMELY fatigued and just very weak. I also started getting lesions on my scalp and began losing patches of my hair around the hair line. My acne was getting a little worse, irritable off and on, and just overall a feeling that something is wrong. Then, my right thumb started getting really sore around the bottom joint (the joint closest to my palm). I thought maybe I did something to it, so I treated it, but it’s not getting better. In fact, it’s getting worse. It feels like I need to pop it, but if I pull it or move it a certain way, it hurts really bad. Then, my left middle finger started doing the same thing. It’s in the middle joint though. I also sleep on the heating pad every night because my back seriously hurts. Well, what sent me to the doctor out of real concern, is about two weeks ago, I woke up from a nap and came to sit on the couch. I was just sitting there and all of a sudden I started feeling REALLY bad. I got real sick to my stomach, started shaking all over, my limbs felt really heavy, and the thought of moving anything was unbearable. When I finally started feeling a little stronger, I got up to go the bathroom to get a wet rag. When I stood up and began walking, I passed out. I was out for about 2 minutes and woke up very weak. I think maybe my blood sugar dropped, but I am not sure, as I’ve never been diagnosed hypoglycemic, but the symptoms matched that exactly. I ate some sugary foods, then stabalized myself with some peanut butter and crackers. About an hour later I felt better, but just worn out.
    So, I saw the doctor this last week and she said she felt it was my blood sugar that made me pass out as well, but was not real sure about everything else. She said she’s going to test me for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. She’s also going to check my cortisol levels, which I’m assuming is because she thinks my adrenal glands may not be functioning very well.
    I am under a massive amount of stress (no joke), sometimes only get about 3-5 hours of sleep a night, and am required to be active all day. My past medical problems/surgeries are:
    tachycardia
    hypotension
    8 kidney stone removals with stint placement
    gallbladder removed
    appendix removed
    c-section
    anxiety
    ovarian cysts
    endometriosis

    I have no other medical issues that I know of. The medications I’m on are:
    Lexapro
    BCP
    Phentermine (I’m 5’9″ tall and weigh 168 lbs currently)

    Is there anyone who knows more about rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and adrenal disease? Or do you know of anything else that could be going on? I just have a feeling something is wrong inside, but I don’t know for sure. I’m having blood work done this week. Just a bit concerned, so any advice, or answers, you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

    1. Anonymous

      I’m sure the reason your doctor is checking your cortisol level is to rule out/diagnose Cushing Syndrome; which fits a lot of your symptoms. Since you already have ovarian cysts, you probably have Polycystic Ovary Disease; your symptoms match there too. Are you around menopausal age? Menopause has a lot of those symptoms too. It is good that you are getting checked for arthritis and lupus too. Another question, how long have you been on the Lexapro? It has a lot of yucky side effects that could be causing some of your symptoms. I’ve kind of thrown a lot out there but just trying to give you some ideas. I’ve listed the links to sites about the info I stated above. I hope all this helps. Best of luck!

      Praying you are able to get a diagnosis soon and relief from your symptoms.

  4. Anonymous

    Nursing student trying to learn from this situation, can someone in the medical field please educate me?
    Yesterday at clinical I had a patient who was there due to severe leg/back pain, anemia, and hyperkalemia and hyponatremia. She has a history of Lupus, ESRD, and DVTs.

    One of her legs was very lumpy and edematous. She indicated that’s what it looked like the last time she had DVTs. As of yesterday they had not confirmed any blood clots in the legs. She’s on Coumadin and her INR was at 1.8 yesterday. Her RBC and H&H were low so she was ordered Procrit to be given during her dialysis which would be occurring today.

    She was having a lot of nosebleeds, and when she blew her nose, half-dollar size blood clots were coming out. I told the nurse I was following about this, she didn’t seem too concerned. She told the patient it was just mucous from blowing her nose (???)……they were most definitely clots. I’ve seen clots, I know what they are. My question is, should she have alerted the doctor about the nosebleeds? Is this “normal” pathology considering her history, or was this something to be concerned about?

    I understand that part of the disease process with Lupus is that patients can get clotting or bleeding disorders. Not to mention her being on Coumadin.

    I tried to ask my nurse about this for my own information (not to question her authority) but I wasn’t really given a straight answer so I’m left wondering what the right course of action would have been here.

    Can anyone help shed some light on this for me please? I’m just trying to learn.
    Just as an FYI, I’ve tried to post these types of questions here in the past and always get people who are utterly defensive answering me. I’m not trying to say that this nurse did something wrong…for all I know she did everything exactly right. But that’s my question – was it right (don’t worry about it), or was it wrong (should have done something about it) ?

    1. Pangolin

      Yes, she certainly should have informed the physician. Lying to the patient about it isn’t good practice either.

      If this were my patient, and I found out that the nurse did that, there would be an incident report filed and a call to Risk Management. In fact, if you have the guts to do so, I’d discuss this with a nursing supervisor or one of your instructors. Don’t bring up the nurse in question’s name, and do it as you did here, in the spirit of learning.

      Your instinct was completely correct. There is hope for you as a nurse. 🙂

      Do what is right for the patient. There are many times when it is less of a hassle to ignore things, or to go along with other people’s laziness or incompetence. Be the one who really CARES for the patient (but don’t expect anyone to thank you for it). You’ll be able to sleep at night when you know you are doing what’s right.

  5. crunikki

    I think I have Lupus, but i’ve never had good luck with doctors, how do I get them to listen to me?
    I work in the medical field, so I know more than the ‘average person’ about all things medical. I’m no doctor, but I do have a good bit of knowledge on the subject. Last weekend, I started getting really dizzy, the kind where to room is spinning and I feel like I’m going to fall down. This was the first time it happened, but it lasted all weekend. After doing some research online about what could cause my dizzy spells, I came across a Lupus website. After thinking more about it, I have many of the symptoms of Lupus. I had dizzy spells, tendonitis, palpitations, an odd skin disease that they never really figured out what it is, and my hair comes out like crazy in the shower. Now, i’m not waking up with chunks of hair on my pillow or anything that drastic, but EVERY time I shower I clog up the drain, I can run my fingers through my hair and get quite a bit out. Also, I am always cold and always tired. I can get 8 hours of sleep and still be tired all day long. It is 78 degrees in my house right now and I am curled up under a blanket with numb fingers and toes because they are so cold. I feel like if I take all this information to the doctors they are just going to say that I am overthinking all my symptoms and blow me off. I just think it is really odd that I have a skin disease and heart palpitations that can’t be explained…………….am I just overthinking all of this?????
    I have been tested for a thyriod disorder a few years back and they said I didn’t have that…..

    1. SethSpeaks

      You have every single classic symptom of thyroid disorder. The test for that is cheaper and fits all of your listed symptoms. Start there instead of coming into the Dr. with a more exotic claim of lupus.

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