Lupus disease - definition, causes, symptoms and treatment

Classification of Lupus Types

Classification of Lupus Types - Due to the fact that it involves impairments of the immune system and determines the body to destroy its own healthy cells and tissues, lupus is defined as an autoimmune disease. A major characteristic of lupus and autoimmune diseases in general is the multitude of generated symptoms. When the compromised immune system becomes confused and targets healthy blood cells and tissues instead of external antigens, the disease can affect virtually any part of the body, producing a wide variety of symptoms that are often uncharacteristic to autoimmune diseases in general. Lupus commonly affects the joints, skin, blood vessels, heart, lungs and even the brain (central nervous system). The symptoms generally produced by lupus and other similar autoimmune diseases have an unspecific character, often being misleading in diagnosing the disease. Lupus often generates symptoms such as pronounced fatigue, body weakness, pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints, fever, kidney affections and skin rashes.

Medical scientists haven't yet been able to find a cure for lupus. In the absence of a specific cure, doctors can only control the symptoms produced by the disease and prevent the occurrence of further complications. With the appropriate treatment, the majority of patients diagnosed with lupus can live healthy and active lives. The progression of lupus is fluctuant and unpredictable, the disease alternating between periods of symptomatic exacerbation and periods of remission. The main goal of the existing treatments of lupus is to prolong the periods of remission and to ease the phases of relapse. Medical scientists hope that in the near future they will be able to come up with an efficient cure for lupus, a treatment that can gradually reverse the effects produced by the disease and prevent the occurrence of flares. The ongoing research upon this matter will probably result in finding the specific cure for lupus in the following couple of years.

The term "Lupus" comprises a variety of distinctive types that can be classified as follows:

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, (SLE), the most common type of lupus, has a pronounced polyvalent character. The systemic form of lupus can affect multiple parts of the body and cause a wide variety of unspecific symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Despite the fact that SLE commonly affects people with ages between 15 and 40, it can also affect the very young or the elderly. Systemic lupus is considered a highly problematic disease, being difficult to diagnose and often requiring ongoing combination treatments.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus is a type of lupus that primarily affects the skin. In the absence of the appropriate treatment, discoid lupus can become systemic over the course of time. In its first stages of progression, discoid lupus produces inflammation and rashes on the face, scalp, or other body regions. In time, the rashes become prominent, thickened and may even increase in size. The skin lesions caused by discoid lupus may also involve scaling and blistering. Although lupus rashes may ameliorate or even completely clear up with the aid of treatment, they tend to recur after a certain amount of time.

Drug-induced lupus is a rare form of the disease that occurs as a result of medication intolerance. This type of lupus produces symptoms that are very similar to systemic lupus erythematosus: rash, unexplained fever, pulmonary and coronary affections, and arthritis. However, unlike the systemic form of the disease, drug-induced lupus doesn't involve kidney impairments and often disappears as soon as the causative drugs are no longer administered. The most common medications that have been identified to cause drug-induced lupus are: hydralazine (Apresoline), methyldopa (Aldomet), procainamide (Procan), isoniazid (INH), quinidine (Quinaglute), phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol).

The last type of lupus refers to the neonatal form of the disease. Neonatal lupus is a very rare disease that affects newborn babies of mothers diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus or other similar autoimmune diseases. Infants affected by this type of lupus often suffer from congenital heart and circulatory problems. Sometimes, infants with neonatal lupus may also suffer from liver conditions and skin affections. When the disease is promptly diagnosed, the young patients' life expectancy and overall condition can be improved with treatment. Prompt medical intervention is crucial for patients with suspected neonatal lupus.
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