According to the Lupus Foundation of America, an estimated 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with some form of Lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can bring about inflammation and pain in the body affecting the joints, kidneys, skin, blood cells, brain, heart, and/or lungs. An autoimmune disease is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body.
Both the Mayo Clinic and Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) were used as resources to provide the following information on the symptoms, risk factors, and the diagnosis of Lupus.
Since Lupus can impact various parts of the body, symptoms will also vary which may include muscle and joint pain, headaches, fever, rashes, chest pain, kidney problems, mouth sores, extreme and ongoing fatigue, anemia, memory problems, blood clotting, and fingers and toes turning white or blue when subjected to the cold or experiencing stress. You should seek medical attention if you have an unexplained rash, ongoing fever, or chronic fatigue and body aches.
Although the cause is mostly unknown, genetics and the environment may play a part. Lupus is more common in women, most often diagnosed in people between 15 and 45, and African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and Alaskan Native women are more at risk.
Getting a diagnosis early is important to best manage this lifelong illness that does not have a cure. Unfortunately, there is no single test to determine if a person has Lupus, however, medical history, family history of Lupus (or other autoimmune diseases), a complete physical with blood and urine tests, and skin or kidney biopsy can help determine if a person has Lupus. Another challenge in identifying Lupus is that some symptoms imitate those of other medical conditions.
Although Lupus is a chronic disease, most cases are mild unless experiencing a flare or episode, both terms used when a patient experiences an onset of symptoms. Common triggers include lack of rest, stress, sun exposure, infection, injury, stopping lupus medications, and starting any new medications. Warning signs for flares include pain, rash, fever, feeling more tired, stomachache, severe headache, and dizziness.
Additional health problems that can result from Lupus include heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease. Having regular visits with your primary care physician or specialist is important to monitor the indicators above to receive proper treatment.
National Health Care Associates’ affiliated skilled nursing center, can assist those requiring short-term rehabilitation following hospitalization. Our Passport Rehabilitation Program offers specialty services to manage and treat many chronic diseases. The goal of our multidisciplinary approach is to help patients get back home safely. To learn more about short-term or long-term care at our center, please visit nathealthcare.com.
For more information on Lupus, please visit the Lupus Foundation of America at www.lupus.org.
Column is written by Laura Falt, director of business development in Connecticut. Laura welcomes the opportunity to be a resource to the community on services for older adults and is often featured in local publications.