What is Lupus?

Lupus is a very serious disease, which can be very frustrating for both patients and doctors, as the cause of the disease is not truly known and the diagnosis can be very tricky. Lupus is classified as a systemic disease or an autoimmune disorder, as it causes a person's own body to work against it self. However, even though there is such a cloud of mystery surrounding lupus, which was first identified in the 19th century, it is not usually fatal.

It is believed that 1.5 to 2 million Americans have Lupus, although this is not known for certain. Lupus is a chronic disorder, in that it does not go away, although there are often periods of remission where the effects are not present.

Lupus is usually discovered in those who are in their teens to early forties, although it can affect people of all ages. In most cases, it will not prove to be fatal, although in the fifties, there was an accepted survival rate of about 50% over the course of five years. However, studies preformed today show a survival rate of closer to 90%, both for five and ten years. Most of those with Lupus, also have some sort of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis.

In most cases, the problems caused by lupus are arguably minor, although this is certainly not always the case. It is important to note that there have been no reported cases of lupus being transferred between individuals.

Lupus and the Immune System

In the body, the immune system is responsible for fighting infection. When the body is cut or an infection found, the immune system kicks into action, sending white blood cells to find and destroy the infection. In someone with lupus, the immune system will actually kick into overdrive and begin attacking healthy tissue, in the same manner it would an infection. This is known as an autoimmune response.

Diagnosing Lupus

Lupus can be very difficult to diagnose, with most patients reporting that they saw several doctors before an accurate diagnosis was made. There is no single test to diagnose lupus and instead it is necessary to base the diagnosis off of some of the symptoms of the patient, as well as the experience of the doctor. This can prove very frustrating not only to the patient, but also the doctor, so it is recommended to see an experienced rheumatologist.

Symptoms of Lupus

Often the first symptoms of lupus are minor and not even recognized as an actual problem. This can include fatigue, fever, rashes, stomach aches, and hair loss. Since these symptoms are also caused by many other conditions, it can be very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. So, diagnosis usually begins with eliminating diseases that are easier to test for, working by the process of elimination.

While there are several standards used by doctors when diagnosing lupus, the American College of Rheumatology(ACR) has put out a criteria that is generally accepted by most rheumatologist. This criteria includes things that can be easily observed and are common in those with lupus. The ACR Criteria is not set in stone, however, and is made up of research that dates back more than 30 years.

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