While writing another post, I came across this video, which, in 3 or so minutes speaks volumes about a lot about this disease:

 Support those who know no relief from this disease that can strike any place in their bodies:

You can help those ‘who don’t look sick’ and click the blue button below to be taken to the website of the

Lupus Foundation of America

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Some symptoms of lupus and their causes

Lupus causes many symptoms, but here are a few. Again, this list isn’t all-inclusive. How can you figure out what causes a symptom? Often all you need to do is consider the powerful inflammatory action that lupus causes, or the ending ‘itis:’ inflammation

  • The malar rash (butterfly rash) is often the first thing that comes to mind when talking of the symptoms of lupus; but not everyone with lupus gets it. When the immune system mounts it attack on the skin (cutaneous lupus), the attack is either acute or chronic. If the attack is acute, (acute meaning it comes rapidly and ‘goes’ rapidly), you might see the classic “butterfly” rash. It is often referred to by doctors as ‘malar’ because of the location on the face where it occupies. Many also refer to it as the “butterfly rash” because it’s redness involves the bridge of the nose and the cheekbones, looking like the the body and wings of a butterfly.
  • fatigue: The precise cause of lupus-related fatigue isn’t known, but disease activity, pain, age, and medicines can contribute to fatigue caused by lupus. Lupus compromises your sleep and too little sleep or poor-quality sleep can result in flares of your symptoms. During these flares, you’re likely to be depressed that there is more pain and other symptoms seem worse. 
  • chest pain. The lung is lined by a membrane, the pleura. Inflammation of the pleura results in the pleura rubbing rubbing up against the lung causing pain. This pain is usually a pain on inspiration (when you breathe in), a pain which may mimic the chest pain of a heart attack. This pain should never be taken lightly and should be reported to your doctor immediately. Most people who have/or had lupus, have had an instance of this inflammation.
  • If the membrane surrounding and protecting the heart (pericardium) becomes inflamed, pericarditis can result. Symptoms of pericarditis often resemble those of a heart attack because there may be sharp, stabbing pain as the heart rubs agains the pericardium. There can also be a fast heart rate or a dry cough or shortness of breath. This should not be ignored.
  • chest pain: Another source of chest pain is called costochondritis. I was privileged (?) to have costochondritis once and it felt like I’d been kicked in the chest: by a horse! Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum. Recurring episodes of costochondritis often lead doctors to make a more thorough exam and a diagnosis of lupus follows.
  • shortness of breath in lupus can be caused by several things, too. If there is pleuritis (inflammation of the pleura, or pleuritis) pain of lupus is caused by pleuritic chest pain, the person might guard against the pain, by not taking deep breaths. Taking shallow breaths results in not getting enough air in the lungs; therefore shortness of breath.
  • headache. The most common type of headache in lupus is the tension or muscle tension headache which will usually ‘go away on its own’ or with over-the-counter analgesics. Lupus also causes migraine headaches which are much more prevalent in lupus sufferers than non-lupus sufferers. However, another kind of headache is more rare, but much more serious and indicative of a life-threatening complication., meningitis. It is due to inflammation of the meninges (membranes which encase the brain). Your physician should be aware of a headache that you have.

These are just a few symptoms of lupus, but for brevity’s sake, I didn’t discuss them all. I’ll discuss others in another post.

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Steroids for lupus

Does the sheer act of getting out of bed hurt so much that staying under the covers in your warm cocoon seem like a good plan? Does the thought of stirring your stumps petrify you? But, that’s just what your joints may need. A little ‘3-in-1- oil!’

Your doctor offered a solution: water (pool) therapy and a short course of steroids. While giving his proposal of steroids some thought this eve, you turned on the news and had an ‘aha’ moment! Steroids are what athletes use to body-build. Are you looking for 6 pack abs, bulging muscles and huge shoulders? Since your answer is a resounding ‘no,’ you explain to the doc ‘no thanks.’ That is, until he explains a few things about steroids.

But, not all steroids make you ‘run your fastest, jump your highest’ so that you can play in the big leagues! That’s only true of some type of steroids; there are three MAIN categories, and each category includes many steroid medications.

The first category we’ll mention is the anabolic steroid. They DO build muscle mass and are used by athletes sometimes to enhance performance. Several of these medications are either discouraged or are illegal. Usually these are the steroids that are in the news.

The second class of steroids is the androgenic steroid; testosterone is in this class. It, too can build muscle mass and give masculine features.

The third class are the Corticosteroids, the medications which we’ll refer to from now on when we mention steroids. These are the steroids your doctor will order; there’s no guarantee that steroids will be effective, but a decision must be made soon.

The last class of of corticosteroiods, include Cortisone,TM Decadron,TM BetamethasoneTM and HydrocortisoneTM . Those are the steroids our doctors may prescribe for lupus symptoms or to treat other causes of inflammation when over the counter non-steroidal medications (such as ibuprofen and naproxyn) aren’t effective.   Steroids are present in cell membrane to make them more stable. They are life-savers in asthma. But, why are they, these medications that can build muscle mass, used in the treatment of lupus?

The main reason that steroids are used in lupus is for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Lupus is a disease which causes massive inflammation in various parts of the body;  So, if  inflammation is causing symptoms, as in asthma (effectively narrowing the airways)  , a steroid might be indicated to decrease the inflammation which is narrowing the airways, making breathing normal again. This is a case where steroids can save lives.

Another use of steroids in lupus is in pleurisy, inflammation of the lung. The lowest dose that is will relieve symptoms and is necessary for treatment should be prescribed because of side effects of steroids. Steroids can have very good effects, but some very bad side effects; which include (in no specific order):

  1. interference with fat metabolism and forming clots which can cause heart disease and stroke .
  2. increase in weight
  3. increase in blood pressure
  4. agressive personality
  5. delusions
  6. psychosis
  7. osteonecrosis when steroids effect changes in fat metabolism that are such that the body ‘lays down’ fatty clots which can lead to bone death (osteonecrosis)

These isn’t an all-inclusive list of steoid side effects. Unfortunately, some of these side effects are permanent. For example, steroids are often given for asthmatic attacks because they can halt an asthma attack in it’s track, by decreasing inflammation of the bronchial ‘tubes.’  But, they can also have quite a damaging effect on the bones. So, a treatment decision may be, ‘To breathe and take your chances about developing bone disesase or not breathe.’ Quite an untenable position.

So, when steroids are good, they’re very very good; but when they’re bad, they’re horrid!

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“We’ve just been introduced…”

Finally, a diagnosis, a reason for years of unexplained aches and pains. It’s not time to get out the party hats, but now that you have a diagnosis, there are more treatment options. However, before telling people that you have an abnormal immune system, shouldn’t you understand what’s normal?

Our immune systems defend our bodies from disease and one of the immune system’s major players is a protein called an antibody. Antibodies rest in constant surveillance for foreign invaders, or antigens. Antibodies attach to antigens and destroy them like

Occasionally, this destruction occurs when antigens aren’t present, so the antibodies attack the body’s own tissues, it’s own cells. This is called autoimmunity; in short, a failure of our bodies to recognize itself as ‘friendly.’ If the attack is on the heart, you may experience lupus pericarditis, if the attack is on the lungs, you may have lupus pleuritis (the largest pulmonary complication of lupus) or pulmonary hypertension. Attacks like these, against the body cause massive inflammation and tissue or cell injury, which we call lupus.

There are a lot of symptoms of lupus, but most are the result of these: inflammation and injury to tissue and cells. The inflammation of lupus is often measured by blood tests and is noticed by the massive inflammation that accompanies lupus and tissue cell injury also accompanies this inflammation.

Approximately 70% of lupus cases are neither drug-induced, neonatal nor discoid. They are systemic (meaning they involve the whole body) and are represented by the name systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Discoid lupus, or cutaneous lupus, is noted to have heavy skin involvement. But eventually, 40-70 % of discoid lupus sufferers develop SLE.

It used to be thought that women with lupus could not and should not conceive. Now, it is possible to conceive and give birth; though the pregnancy is thought to be high-risk.

When pregnant women have lupus, on occasion their autoantibodies travel through across the placenta and through the fetal circulation; attacking the cells of the fetus. This is called neonatal lupus and children with neonatal lupus are at risk for premature birth and heart block.

Drug-induced lupus, as the name suggests, is often caused by certain medications. Example of medications that might cause drug-induced lupus are, dilantin  (epilepsy). Surprisingly enough, some of the medications used to treat lupus, cause drug-induced lupus. Medications used to treat other chronic illnesses can cause drug-induced lupus.

The video below is the best explanation of what lupus is, by a reputable organization. So, if you have only a few minutes to to explain to your family why you have the symptoms you do, this ia a must, not-withstanding the commercials.

What is Lupus?

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