Lupus – What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Lupus – What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks otherwise healthy tissue and organs. Its symptoms can be tremendously painful, and because there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the disorder, further research is needed to help experts find a cure. May is Lupus Awareness Month and we’re here to raise awareness with a few lupus facts. By becoming an informed lupus advocate, you can join the global movement to fight this chronic disease.

A Closer Look at Lupus

Lupus impairs the immune system’s ability to differentiate among healthy tissues and foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and germs. As a result, healthy tissue is attacked, which causes widespread pain and damage throughout the body.

Women of childbearing age comprise the largest population of individuals living with lupus, but men, teenagers, and children can also develop the illness. It is often developed between the ages of 15 and 44, and although no studies have been conducted to determine the precise number of affected individuals, research from the Lupus Foundation of America indicates at least 1.5 million Americans have the disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Lupus?

Since the impact of lupus is not concentrated to a specific area or functionality of the body, it can produce a broad range of symptoms, many of which can be mistakenly attributed to other conditions. In fact, the disease is often called the “great imitator,” since it produces symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism.

Headaches, pain or swelling in the joints, extreme fatigue, and fever are just a few of the most common symptoms associated with lupus. Individuals may also experience what’s known as the “lupus rash,” which often manifests in a butterfly-like pattern across the face. Sensitivity to sunlight, hair loss, swelling in the extremities, anemia, abnormal blood clotting, and mouth ulcers are additional symptoms to watch for.

How is Lupus Diagnosed?

In addition to its broad set of symptoms, another barrier to diagnosing lupus is the fact that there is not yet a single diagnostic test for detecting the disease. Antinuclear antibody (ANA) tests are the most common methods used to test for lupus, but this is not a disease-specific analysis. Oftentimes, many tests must be performed to help doctors assess whether an individual has lupus, and even then, establishing a definitive diagnosis is challenging. Other symptoms must be assessed to help doctors ascertain whether an individual has lupus versus one of the conditions it is known to imitate.

While researchers still have yet to pinpoint a specific cause for the disease, it is speculated that it results from a combination of factors, including a person’s environment and genetics. In fact, there are more than 50 genes associated with lupus, and while these genes alone are not thought to be responsible for causing lupus, it is likely they are contributing risk factors.

What Are Some Available Treatments?

Despite the lack of a cure, the symptoms of lupus can be managed by avoiding known triggers, working with specialists including rheumatologists, and taking certain medications. Supplemental therapies may also be used to treat the conditions associated with the disease, such as diuretics to alleviate fluid retention and blood pressure medications to treat hypertension. Stem cell therapy is also an available alternative option for those with lupus. Because the condition affects each person differently, many individuals find treating their specific set of symptoms is the most effective way to manage lupus.

Effective Lifestyle Tips for Lupus Patients

Effective Lifestyle Tips for Lupus Patients

Reduce Stress to Avoid Flare-Ups

Recent clinical trials show that increased stress can really worsen the symptoms. Effectively managing the stress is highly beneficial to manage with lupus in daily life. One big way to start is by identifying the cause of stress.

Some recommendations to deal with stress are:

  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help when your symptoms get worse
  • Take up activities that help you stay relaxed and calm
  • Take out time for yourself more often during the week

Maintain a Healthy Diet for Your Heart

Research shows that lupus leads to a risk of heart disease. It is important to maintain a diet that is heart healthy. Your diet should incorporate more of:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Protein like fish and poultry
  • Whole grains

Getting plenty of calcium and limiting sodium intake in diet is also very beneficial.

Improve Your Sleep

One of the most common symptoms of lupus is chronic fatigue and the worsening of symptoms can really make it hard to fall sleep. It is recommended to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep and also rest from time to time during the day.

Avoid Too Much Sunlight

Majority of lupus patients have high sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Spending too much time out in the sun can give rise to a flare-up. It is also observed that lupus medications can heighten the body’s sensitivity UV light. It is essential to wear a sunblock when going out in the sun.

Exercise More

Lupus affects the joints of the body and exercising on a regular basis is a great way to keep the joints healthy, promote stronger muscles, avoid stiffness, control weight and also help control fatigue.

Make sure to consult with a doctor prior to any exercise routines as some specific exercises can cause swollen joints and pain.

Exercise also improves your mental health. Dealing with a condition like lupus often leads to clinical depression. Exercise can help improve the symptoms. Research shows that people who engaged in any kind of simple kind of physical activity had lower levels of depression.

Almost 90% of studies suggest that exercise can reduce fatigue, including exercise in your daily routine can really help with the symptoms of lupus like feeling run-down and sluggish by increasing the body’s energy levels.

Another benefit for increased exercise is improving the side effects caused by medications. Lupus medications have various side effects, most common of which is weight gain. They can also increase your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol. Taking steroids also increases the appetite.

Below are some tips to exercise safely and under medical advice.

  • Take it slow
  • Talk to your doctor
  • Participate in low impact exercise
  • Keep an exercise journal
Researchers Demonstrate Long-Term Safety of Stem Cell Transplantation in Lupus Patients

Researchers Demonstrate Long-Term Safety of Stem Cell Transplantation in Lupus Patients

A recent study published in Clinical and Experimental Medicine provides new evidence that mesenchymal stem cell transplantation may be a safe treatment option for patients who suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus and who do not respond to conventional treatments like immunosuppressive drugs and steroids. Previous studies that have examined the efficacy and safety of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for lupus patients have suggested that the procedure is safe. In those studies, few if any adverse side effects have been observed.

Given the promise of mesenchymal stem cells for treating systemic lupus erythematosus, the scientists conducting the current study wanted to more comprehensively evaluate the technique’s safety. They studied 9 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus who were not responding to immunosuppressive drugs or steroids. The patients underwent umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell transplantation and were evaluated immediately following the procedure and again 6 years earlier.

To evaluate safety, the researchers performed tests of the blood, urine, and liver. They also checked the heart with electrocardiograms, did chest radiography, looked at white blood cell and platelet counts, and checked for markers of cancer. None of the tests the researchers performed demonstrated adverse side effects of the umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell transplantation either immediately after or 6 years after the procedure. One patient experienced a warm sensation with dizziness following the transplantation, but no patients experienced headaches, nausea, or vomiting.

These results help to bolster the idea that mesenchymal stem cells may provide a safe therapeutic option for systemic lupus erythematosus patients who do not respond to conventional therapies. Studies that evaluate both longer-term safety of the procedure as well as its efficacy in improving the symptoms and progression of lupus will help scientists and clinicians better understand how stem cell regiments can be used to help lupus patients.

To learn more about stem cell therapy for lupus patients, click here.

Stem Cells Shown to Be Beneficial in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients

Stem Cells Shown to Be Beneficial in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients

A recent study that was undergone to determine how effective – and how safe – a stem cell transplant for lupus patients found that the approach was both effective and safe. The results were published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The researchers specifically targeted patients with systemic lupus erythematosus who did not respond to conventional treatments for lupus. Certain types of stem cells have been used to treat these types of patients before. In this study, researchers used mesenchymal stem cells because these cells have advantageous properties that make them likely to be effective in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus, as well as properties that make them likely to be safer than hematopoietic stem cells.

There were 15 patients who underwent mesenchymal stem cell transplantation as part of this study. The researchers followed up with the majority of these patients for over a year following the procedure. When assessing the patients, the researchers tested them on the systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index (SLEDAI) and for proteinuria, as these tests can be used to evaluate lupus status and kidney function. The researchers found that every patient who had received the stem cell transplantation showed clinical improvement in their lupus.

Once a year had passed since the stem cell transplantation, all but 2 patients continued to experience an improvement in their lupus, while the other 2 patients had a relapse in their proteinuria. The researchers looked at other signs of kidney and non-kidney function and found evidence of improvement from those tests as well. The researchers did not observe any serious adverse side effects from the stem cell transplantation.

These results demonstrate the promise of mesenchymal stem cell transplant for lupus patients who do not respond to conventional treatments. Given that the stem cells appear to be safe for this application and also to improve lupus, further research will likely help clarify the best way that these stem cells may be used to help patients who suffer from lupus.

To learn more about stem cell transplant for lupus patients, click here.

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