According to the Lupus Foundation of America, an estimated 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide are currently living with lupus. Despite these staggering statistics, the disease remains largely misunderstood, if not unknown. That’s why the acclaimed primary care doctors at East Greenbush, NY’s Urgent & Primary Care have put together this guide complete with everything you need to know.
1. Lupus Is an Autoimmune Disease
Your immune system produces antibodies that destroy any bacteria, viruses, or toxins that may make you sick. For those with lupus, however, the immune system misidentifies the cells in your tissues and organs as foreign invaders and attacks them by mistake. Like many other autoimmune diseases, lupus is chronic by nature. But that doesn’t mean symptoms are ceaseless. After their initial diagnosis, most patients experience flare-ups in which their health worsens for a period before tapering off again.
2. There Are Five Different Types
Though most use lupus as a catch-all name for the disease, Urgent & Primary Care’s family care physicians explain, there are five distinct types that affect the body in different ways. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common, accounting for 70 percent of all cases. SLE results in abnormal inflammation and disrupts the normal function of joints, kidneys, skin, blood, heart, lungs, and even brain.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), on the other hand, creates inflamed, scaling sores on the face, ears, and scalp. Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE) also affects the skin but causes sores on any part of the body exposed to the sun. The final two types – neonatal lupus and drug-induced lupus – only affect newborns and those taking hydralazine, procainamide, quinidine, or other similar medications, respectively.
3. There Are Many Risk Factors
Currently, there is no known cause of lupus. There are, however, known risk factors that increase one’s chances of developing the autoimmune disease. For example, women are nine times more likely than men to have lupus, especially those between the ages of 15 and 49. But it’s important to note that when men do get lupus, they tend to have more severe symptoms. Likewise, race plays a role in the development of lupus. African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women are three times more likely to have the disease than white women.
According to these experienced primary care doctors, certain environmental factors also play a role. Namely, exposure to ultraviolet lights, mineral silica, and the Epstein-Barr virus have the closest associations with lupus.
4. It Is Difficult to Diagnose
After the onset of their symptoms, it takes an individual – on average – 6 years to be diagnosed with lupus. That is because the autoimmune disease shares traits with many other conditions. The inflammation that is characteristic of SLE, for example, is like that of rheumatoid arthritis. Likewise, the rashes caused by DLE can look like psoriasis. But with time, and the right primary care doctor, lupus patients can start getting the treatment they need.
5. Treatment Differs Between Patients
Lupus affects people in different ways, so there’s not one treatment to follow. Rather, the patient will work closely with their family care physician to find a plan that works for them. For most, that includes a mix of medication management, self-care, and visits to various specialists.
Understanding lupus is the first step to not only increasing global awareness but also getting patients the quality health care they need. For more on this widespread autoimmune disease, visit Urgent & Primary Care online. To schedule an appointment regarding lupus or any other condition, call the primary care doctors at (518) 463-8262 today.