The Complexity of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a life-threatening chronic autoimmune disease. Although the mortality rate of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus has reduced in the last decades, the disease continues to raise serious problems to the affected persons. Research results reveal that around 2 million people in the United States suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus and almost 90 percent of patients are females. The disease has the highest incidence in young women with ages between 18 and 30 years old. Asian, Hispanic and African American women are more exposed to developing systemic lupus erythematosus than white women. In Asian and African countries, the incidence of the disease in women is known to be a lot higher than in the United States. Furthermore, Asian and African American women seem to develop more serious forms of the disease. Systemic lupus erythematosus is also common in infants, very young children and elderly people.
Modern medicine is unable to establish the actual causes of systemic lupus erythematosus. It is believed that there are multiple inter-related factors that determine the occurrence of the disease: genetic anomalies, environmental factors (prolonged medical treatments with strong antibiotics) and hormonal factors (since the disease is predominant in women, estrogen seems to be involved in the occurrence of the disease).
Systemic lupus erythematosus can affect different parts of the body, sometimes even causing permanent damage. Lupus involves dysfunctions or hyperactivity of the immune system, which begins to attack healthy blood cells and genetic material. Instead of protecting the body from infectious agents and malign organisms, the immune system produces antinuclear antibodies that attack the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Systemic lupus erythematosus can affect the cardiovascular system, the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the kidneys, the nervous system and brain, the musculoskeletal system or skin. People with systemic lupus erythematosus commonly suffer from affections of the joints, heart disease, pulmonary disease or skin diseases. Considering the multitude of generated symptoms, people with systemic lupus erythematosus require various medical treatments for each particular disorder.
The treatment for systemic lupus erythematosus is mainly targeted at reducing the damage caused by the dysfunctional immune system to the body. Immunosuppressive medications are very common in the treatment for lupus. Although they can generate pronounced side-effect, corticosteroids are often used in the treatment of systemic lupus erythemaosus. However, doctors are trying to minimize the use of harmful drugs such as azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).
The chronic character of systemic lupus erythematosus determines the recurrence of its symptoms. The disease has an unpredictable evolution pattern, alternating between periods of remission and periods of aggravation. Even if systemic lupus erythematosus is inactive, the patients still require permanent monitoring and frequent physical examination. Also, due to prolonged treatments with immunosuppressive medications, patients with systemic lupus erythematosus are very susceptible to infections. People with systemic lupus erythematosus need to take steps in preventing the occurrence of infectious diseases, as on the background of a compromised immune system, even a common flu can generate exacerbated symptoms.
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