Lupus explained

Despite affecting one in 700 Australians, lupus remains a mystery for many. As October is Lupus Awareness Month, we have compiled the facts you need to know.

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune condition that can range in severity from mild to life-threatening, where the immune system is ‘overactive’ and attacks the body’s own healthy tissues and cells. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose and currently has no known cause or cure, however its symptoms can be managed with medicines and lifestyle adjustments. Women of child-bearing age (20-50) are most commonly affected by this condition.

As it affects one of the body’s major systems, it is unpredictable and a broad range of symptoms can vary from person to person. It is a condition of flares and remissions and, due to its chronic nature, can seriously affect physical and emotional wellbeing. Some of the symptoms include:

  • joint and muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • skin rashes and lesions
  • hair loss
  • mouth and nose ulcers
  • chest pain (from inflammation of the lining of the heart and lungs)
  • anaemia
  • poor kidney function
  • seizures or visual disturbances
  • fever.

There are four main types of lupus:

  • systemic lupus erythematosus (attacks the body’s healthy tissue)
  • discoid lupus erythematosus (chronic skin condition affected by the sun)
  • drug-induced lupus (provoked by certain medicines)
  • neonatal lupus (a rare form that affects a fetus or newborn baby)

Treatment options may vary according to the diagnosis, but can include prescription medicines and injections; avoiding trigger foods and exposure to the elements; and plenty of rest. To seek help, visit your GP who may refer you to a specialist, such as a rheumatologist, dermatologist or immunologist.

Read more at Better Health Victoria.

Do you or a loved one suffer from lupus? What would you like people to know about living with this condition?

Written by Louise Baxter

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