Lupus Site - a guide for lupus patients and their families



Lupus Facts


There is currently no single test that can definitely say whether a person has lupus or not.

There are three different types of lupus - Discoid(cutaneous) lupus, Systemic lupus & Drug-induced lupus.

  • In approximately 10% of cases of discoid lupus, it evolves & develops into systemic lupus.

  • There are various factors thought to trigger the onset of lupus, or cause lupus to flare, these include - UV light, certain prescription drugs, infection, certain antibiotics, hormones, & possibly stress.

  • Approximately 95% of lupus patients have a positive ANA test.

  • 90% of lupus sufferers are female.

  • Only about 30% of lupus sufferers actually have the classical 'butterfly' rash that is associated with lupus.

  • Approximately 10% of lupus patients actually have drug-induced lupus. Drug-induced lupus is usually less severe than SLE & will disappear after the patient stops taking the particular drug.

  • Drugs that have definite proof of an association with drug-induced lupus include - Procainamide (Procan or Pronestyl), Hydralazine (Apresoline or Apresazide), Isoniazid (INH), Quinidine, & Phenytoin (Dilantin).

  • The widely used acne drug Minocycline, has been shown to cause drug induced lupus symptoms.

  • Drugs known to exacerbate lupus or increase the risk of allergic reactions in people with lupus, include some antibiotics (sulfa, tetracycline)

  • The term 'lupus' was derived from the Latin word for wolf in an effort to describe one of the disease's most recognisable features, the rash on the cheeks that suggests a wolf-like appearance.

  • The technical name for the disease we know of as lupus was first applied to a skin disorder by a Frenchman, Pierre Cazenave, in 1851, though descriptive articles detailing the condition date back to Hippocrates in ancient Greece.

  • Between 1895 & 1903, the great physician William Osler clearly identified that internal organs may be involved & that lupus could take on a 'systemic' form.

  • In 1948, a pathologist named Malcolm Hargreaves discovered the LE cell (Lupus Erythematosus cell), which was the first blood test used to help diagnose lupus. He found that 70-80% of patients with active SLE possessed these cells.

  • During the 1950s, the LE cell was shown to be part of an antinuclear antibody (or ANA) reaction. This led to the development of other tests for autoantibodies.

  • 80% of lupus patients develop the disease between the ages of 15 & 45.

  • The treatment of lupus aims to suppress the overactive immune system & diminish any inflammation.

  • The most commonly used treatments for lupus are NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), Anti-Malarials (known as disease modifying agents), & steroids. These drugs can be used on their own or in combination.

  • Occasionally immuno-suppressive drugs need to be used, these include Cytoxan, Azathioprine & Methotrexate.

  • The most common sites for skin rashes in lupus patients are the palms, elbows & face. Often the rashes are subtle, eg. a faint pinkiness may appear around the cheeks & tips of the fingers or on the soles of the feet.

  • Many lupus patients are very sun sensitive, & therefore need to cover up well when in the sun.

  • Some lupus patients report of being affected by UV light, eg. from flourescent lights.

  • There is no way of telling how long a flare will last. After the initial flare, some lupus patients go into remission & never have another flare, but some patients can be in a flare for years.

  • Lupus patients are more likely to contract infections such as salmonella, herpes zoster & candida(yeast). Infections in lupus patients tend to last longer & require a longer course of treatment with antibiotics than infections in people who do not have lupus.

  • Fatigue, malaise, sleep disturbances, myalgias, cognitive impairment & gastrointestinal symptoms are frequent in patients with lupus, & yet may occur in the absence of an obvious disease flare or abnormal blood tests.

  • Fatigue, headache & cognitive dysfunction (memory, attention, concentration) are symptoms associated with central nervous system (CNS) involvement.




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