Lupus Lupus is an immune system disease that affects more than 17,000 Australians.  Up to 90% of those with lupus are women.  Women of color are at the highest risk of getting lupus.  It also appears that lupus occurs at an earlier age for these women.  The majority of people affected by lupus see symptoms between 15 and 45 years of age. The primary role of the immune system is to fight off foreign invaders, such as viruses, molds, and bacteria.  Lupus interferes with this process.  In a lupus patient the antibodies produced attack the patient's own organs and healthy tissues.  The symptoms of lupus are vague and vary from person to person.  However, the following is a list of the most common symptoms. Headaches Extreme fatigue Fever Swollen and/or painful joints Hair loss Nose or mouth ulcers Sun or light sensitivity Swelling of hands, legs, feet and around the eyes Anemia Pleurisy (pain in chest or with deep breathing) Abnormal blood clotting Fingers turning blue or white when cold Pain Many of these symptoms occur in other diseases (thyroid problems, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders, Lyme disease, diabetes, and a number of heart, lung, bone, and muscle diseases) which makes diagnosing lupus difficult.  Lupus is often called “the great imitator” due to the mimicking of other diseases. A physician trying to diagnosis lupus will look for the symptoms listed above.  The inflammation can occur inside the body (heart or kidneys) and on the outside of your body or both.  The physician will look at the following list to make a determination. Medical history Lab results Current symptoms Medical history of close relatives If multiple symptoms are present at one time, a physician (family doctor, internist, or pediatrician) may reach a lupus diagnosis.  However, if symptoms develop over a matter of time it might be necessary to see a rheumatologist to get a correct diagnosis.  Relatives of people with lupus have a 5-13% chance of contracting the disease also.  However, only about 5 % of children with a parent who have it will develop lupus. The following tips can help the lupus patient remain comfortable. Do not smoke Rest regularly Visit your doctor regularly Do not drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day Exercise in moderation daily Avoid sun exposure Avoid people with infections Take your medications as prescribed Inform yourself on the disease Attend a support group if possible All in all its key to get an early diagnosis.  If the symptoms start to appear see your doctor as soon as possible and ask for testing to be done for lupus.  There are medications that can treat some of the symptoms but lupus itself cannot be cured.  There are cases, however, where the patient's symptoms will subside or even disappear.
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