Is Lupus Throwing You for a Loop?

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines Systemic Lupus Erythematosus as a “chronic, inflammatory, connective tissue disease that can affect the joints and many organs, including the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, and nervous system.” It is an autoimmune disease that can cause a wide range of symptoms, most commonly including fatigue; fever; joint pain, stiffness, and swelling; a butterfly-shaped rash on the face; skin lesions; shortness of breath; chest pain; dry eyes; and headaches, confusion, and memory loss.

There are four different forms of lupus:

1—System lupus, which accounts for about 70 percent of all cases.
2—Cutaneous lupus affects only the skin and accounts for about 10 percent of lupus cases.
3—Drug-induced lupus is caused by high doses of certain medications and accounts for another 10 percent of cases. Symptoms usually subside when the medications are discontinued.
4—Neonatal lupus is rare, and occurs when the mother’s antibodies affect the fetus. At birth, the baby may have symptoms, but they typically disappear after six months of age.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, an estimated 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide suffer from lupus. It most commonly is diagnosed in women between the ages of 15 and 44, but children and men of all ages may also develop it. It occurs more often in women of color than among Caucasian women.

People with lupus can be seriously affected by arthritis; kidney disease; reduction in the number of red or white blood cells or platelets; blood clots; chest pain; irregular heartbeat; and fluid around the lungs and heart. Lupus may also increase risk for dementia. Study results reported in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry stated that among individuals across all age groups who had received a diagnosis of lupus, dementia risk was increased by 51 percent, indicating that “systemic lupus erythematosus is significantly associated with dementia.”  Ten to 15 percent of people with lupus will die prematurely due to complications.

The cause of lupus is unknown, but is likely the results of a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Some 50 genes are now thought to be associated with lupus. The most common environmental triggers cited by researchers are ultraviolet light, infections, and exposure to silica dust. Some studies have also looked at the relationship between estrogen and lupus, because women account for such a high percentage of cases.

Studies are also indicating that lupus and other autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and celiac disease may be linked to gut bacteria that travels to other organs, inducing an autoimmune attack, and that “the use of probiotics, prebiotics, and antibiotics has the potential to alter microbiota dysbiosis, which in turn could improve lupus symptoms,” said Husen Zhang, the first author of one of the studies, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology..

A healthy lifestyle is recommended to lupus patients, and there are drugs used to treat the symptoms, including steroids, anti-inflammatories, antimalarials, immunosuppressants, and biologics. However, there is no known cure.

Ultimately, increased research funding and participation in clinical studies is the best way to discover new treatments for lupus. Meridien Research has research studies for lupus enrolling now at our Spring Hill clinic. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839 or visit our individual study pages.