By Dr. Suraiya Afroz, OSMS Board-Certified Rheumatologist

Dr. Suraiya Afroz is seeing patients at our Fox Valley clinic in Neenah. Request an appointment with her here.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting nearly 30,000 people living in Wisconsin. Sometimes the best ways to understand lupus to know what it is not. Lupus is not contagious. You cannot give someone lupus and you cannot catch lupus from someone.

What is Lupus?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks your body’s healthy tissues leading to systemic inflammation. It can affect nearly any organ of the body. Signs and symptoms of lupus can vary from mild skin and joint disease to life threatening organ dysfunctions such as renal failure, low blood counts, or seizures.

Although lupus affects people of all ages, it is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45 and is more common in women which is attributed to the estrogen hormonal effect. Its prevalence is also three to four times higher in non-Caucasian individuals.

What causes lupus?

The causes of lupus remain mostly unknown but is likely multifactorial. Studies suggest that genetic predisposition along with environmental factors can lead to lupus. Among the environmental triggers, UV light, silica exposure, and viruses such as Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) have been linked to lupus.

What are the signs and symptoms of lupus?

Symptoms of Lupus

Symptoms of lupus include fatigue, joint pain, and butterfly rash.

Symptoms of lupus may include but not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Myalgia
  • Arthritis and arthralgias
  • Oral/nasal ulcers
  • Rashes: especially sun sensitive facial rash, commonly known as “the butterfly rash.”
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: color changes in the hands
  • Neurological disorders such as seizures, peripheral neuropathy
  • Renal abnormalities: Lupus Nephritis (which is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in lupus)
  • Hematologic abnormalities such as low blood counts
  • Cardiac and pulmonary disorders

How is lupus treated?

Lupus signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. Effective management of lupus requires regular clinical and laboratory monitoring to follow the disease’s activity.

Non-pharmacological and preventative therapies include using sunscreen or other sun protection, given exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can exacerbate or induce systemic signs and symptoms of lupus. Sunscreens that block both UV-A and UV-B light, and SPF 55 and above are suggested. Many patients with lupus have low Vitamin D levels. Your Vitamin D level should be monitored, and Vitamin D supplements may be recommended. It is also recommended to quit cigarette smoking since smoking has been associated with lupus flares. In addition, smoking also adds to an increased risk of heart disease in those with lupus.

Pharmacologic treatments for lupus include hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, which are generally used as a first line therapy and has many beneficial effects in patients with lupus. Corticosteroids such as prednisone are also used depending on the severity of symptoms. Examples of other immunosuppressive agents that may be used depending on the signs and symptoms include belimumab, mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, and rituximab.

The goal of lupus therapy is directed at achieving remission or low disease activity and preventing flares. Overall management of lupus requires close monitoring of the disease activity and continued discussion and follow up with your Rheumatologist to achieve the best possible outcome. We, at OSMS, are here to help you reach your goal!

Dr. Suraiya Afroz sees patients at the OSMS Fox Valley Clinic in Neenah. Request an appointment with her by clicking here.