Lupus in Brief

What is Lupus ?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease.
When you have lupus you produce an excess of proteins - called antibodies - which instead of protecting the body, react against substances normally present in the body to cause many symptoms. Lupus is not infectious or contagious, however, can result in pain, career, lifestyle and emotional changes for those affected.

Who Does Lupus Affect ?

Lupus is not a rare disease. It affects over 20,000 Australians, at least 1 in 2000 West Australians and is increasingly significantly in incidence due to improved detection by medical tests.
90% of those affected will be women and develop lupus between the ages of 15 and 45 years. Lupus is at least twice as prevalent in Aboriginal Australians.
International Studies have reported lupus as a leading cause of morbidity among women, with women five times more likely to die from complications of lupus than men.

Lupus an important health issue for women and the entire family structures upon which it impacts.

What Causes Lupus ?

Medical researchers do not know the cause of lupus. It is known that the body's immune system attacks its own tissues instead of protecting them, as is the case normally.
Also, recent studies have shown that there is a link between lupus and certain hormones, together with environmental and genetic factors.

Types of Lupus

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) : Can affect almost any organ or system of the body. Affected areas can range from skin and joints, to kidneys, lungs, heart, blood vessels and/or brain. Often people affected have another autoimmune disease, in addition to SLE.

Discoid Lupus : Is generally a milder disease than SLE, and affects the skin, with skin rashes and sun sensitivity being the main symptoms. A disc-shaped rash often occurs on the face, but can also be seen on the arms and chest. Internal organs and general health is usually not affected. A small percentage of people with discoid lupus will later develop SLE.

Drug-Induced Lupus : Develops as a reaction to certain medications used to treat other medical conditions. It usually goes away when the medication that triggered the lupus is stopped.

SLE has a wide range of symptoms. It can remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.

It is important to see your doctor if you have concerns with regard to your health and the symptoms below.

What are the Main Symptoms ?

Discoid ( internal organs are rarely affected ) :

  • Rashes on face, scalp or other areas.

Systemic ( a wide range of symptoms which vary between each person with periods of wellness ( remission ) and illness ( flares )) :

  • Fatigue
  • Muscular pain/inflammation - tendons/ joints
  • Skin rash - face, neck or arms
  • Fever and weakness. feeling of poor health
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Hair loss
  • Unexplained headache, depression or anxiety
  • Chest pain including pleurisy
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Kidney problems
  • Miscarriages ( lupus flares during pregnancy )

Lupus is more common in Western Australia than leukaemia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and AIDS

How is Lupus Diagnosed ?

Lupus is not an easy disease to diagnose as it affects different people in different ways and may imitate other arthritic conditions.
Currently there is no single test that can show whether a person has lupus, but several tests may help diagnose it. In general however, if a person is suspected of having lupus, the doctor will review the medical history of their patient and carry out :

  • a complete physical examination to identify characteristic features,
  • a blood count to establish whether the patient has too few red cells, white cells or platelets ( blood cells that control bleeding ),
  • an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test to confirm the presence of the antibodies that are present in lupus,
  • other tests to determine the amount of inflammation in the body and whether kidney involvement is suspected.

There is no cure for lupus.

Successful treatment and quality of life depend upon :

  • good communication
  • understanding the disease
  • undertaking lifestyle changes
  • a positive attitude
  • regular checkups

How can Lupus be Treated ?

As lupus is often different in each person, finding the right balance of treatment, with minimal serious side effects, may take time. However, in general, treatment given will depend on the severity of the disease and whether there is organ involvement. Regular monitoring to detect disease changes will be undertaken.

Medications aim to suppress the overactive immune system and reduce the inflammation and associated symptoms. Medications include aspirin, steroids, antimalarials, immunosuppressants ( severe cases ) and broad-spectrum, high-grade blockout suncream.

Who Should I Talk To ?

Consult your doctor if you have any concerns or queries as to lupus, or contact The Lupus Group of WA ( phone : 9224 3144 ), or the Lupus Association in your State.

Disclaimer :
The Lupus Group of WA ( Inc ) does not recommend or endorse any products, drugs, treatments, procedures, medical or health professional in this article. We suggest you discuss this information with your doctor or specialist.

If you require any information please contact us at: or phone 08 9388 2199 and leave a message.