I did not really know anything about lupus, only that it was one of the late President Marcos’ diseases, until Jennifer, a close childhood friend, suffered and died of it.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakes the body’s own tissues as foreign invaders and attacks them.
There are two kinds of lupus:
- Discoid lupus erythematosus
DLE mainly affects skin that is exposed to sunlight and doesn’t typically affect vital internal organs. Discoid (circular) skin lesions often leave scars after healing of the lesions.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
SLE, on the other hand, is more serious. It affects the skin and other vital internal organs, cand can cause a raised, scaly, butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks that can leave scars if untreated. It can also affect other parts of the skin elsewhere in the body.
Aside from the visible effects of systemic lupus, the disease may also inflame and/or damage the connective tissue in the joints, muscles, and skin, along with the membranes surrounding it within the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. It can also cause kidney disease. Brain involvement is rare, but for some, lupus can cause confusion, depression, seizures, and strokes.
Blood vessels may come under attack with systemic lupus. This can cause sores to develop on the skin, especially the fingers. Some lupus patients get Raynaud’s syndrome, which makes the small blood vessels in the skin contract, preventing blood from getting to the hands and feet – especially in response to cold. Most attacks last only a few minutes, can be painful, and often turn the hands and feet white or a bluish color. Lupus patients with Raynaud’s syndrome should keep their hands warm with gloves during cold weather.
No single factor is known to cause lupus. Research suggests that a combination of genetic, hormonal, environmental, and immune system factors may be behind it. Environmental factors ranging from viral and bacterial infections to severe emotional stress or overexposure to sunlight, may play a role in provoking or triggering the disease. High estrogen levels resulting from pregnancy may aggravate lupus.
Treatment and Prevention
People are living longer and better with lupus than ever before. Although there’s no cure for lupus, there are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms.
Having a healthy lifestyle will prevent problems linked to lupus, like kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. Doing these lifestyle change tips will greatly help:
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Quit smoking (or don’t start), to protect your heart and blood vessels.
- Get plenty of rest to ease fatigue.
- Exercise most days to help sleep, mood, and heart health.
- Always use sunscreen when you go out.
- Get pneumonia and flu vaccines to protect against infections.
Hannah may have already passed away, but her death has never stopped me from understanding lupus, understanding a part of her.