Why Does This Happen
We are much closer now to being able to answer this question, thanks in part to being able to analyse gene expression in people with the disease.
We know from genetic studies that at least some risk of lupus is inherited from our parents, but we also know that inheritance explains only a fraction of the risk of getting lupus. So other factors must contribute.
It now appears that a large subset of lupus patients disease is caused by mechanisms the immune system normally uses to combat viruses. The immune system produces virus-fighting hormones such as interferon which activates the production of antibodies and destructive inflammation intended to kill the infection. When this happens by error, and is directed at the self, tissue inflammation and damage occur.
Current treatments are limited to non-specific immune suppressant drugs borrowed from other diseases such as arthritis, and drugs used to stop an organ recipients body rejecting the donor organ. Although life-saving in many cases, these drugs have major side effects and dont control all patients disease.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lupus
There are a wide variety of symptoms you might experience if you have lupus. Not everyone with lupus will have the same set of symptoms. Also, many of these symptoms overlap with what you could experience with other medical conditions. This is one of the difficulties in diagnosing someone with lupus.
The symptoms of lupus can be slow to develop. You may notice new symptoms over time. The severity of your symptoms can also change over time. Sometimes symptoms may barely be present , while other times they could flare up. A flare-up is when a symptom is suddenly more severe than before.
Symptoms of lupus can include:
Why Does The Immune System Go Wrong
Several genetic factors probably influence the development of SLE.
Some genes in the body help the immune system to function. In people with SLE, changes in these genes may stop the immune system from working properly.
One possible theory relates to cell death, a natural process that occurs as the body renews its cells, according to Genetics Home Reference.
Some scientists believe that, due to genetic factors, the body does not get rid of cells that have died.
These dead cells that remain may release substances that cause the immune system to malfunction.
Lupus may develop in response to a number of factors. These may be hormonal, genetic, environmental, or a combination of these.
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Women Are More Susceptible
Notably, 80% of all those who experience autoimmune disorders are women, raising important questions about genetic and other factors involved in the development of autoimmune conditions .Flare-ups may also be caused or worsened by certain foods that can cause inflammation in the body, including processed sugars and carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, wheat products, factory-farmed meats, and dairy with hormones .
Treatment For Lupus Flare
Flare-ups are a sign that one or more of your organs may be inflamed. Thats why its critical to seek medical help as soon as possible. Prompt treatment of lupus flare-ups can reduce the potential of organ damage.
Lupus flare-ups can negatively impact your quality of life. Flare-ups can affect your ability to work, perform daily tasks, take part in your favorite activities, and more.
There is no cure for lupus, but treatments are available for managing its symptoms.
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Understanding Lupus Environmental Triggers
Lupus doesnt have one clear origin. Researchers believe it comes from a complex equation of factors. One part of the equation is your genetic makeup. Another part involves the hormones that regulate much of your bodys functions. A third is your environment.
When scientists use the term environment, they dont mean only sunlight and other outdoor factors. When we start talking about the environment, we are talking about things that are nongenetic in nature, explains Mark F. Gourley, M.D., fellowship training program director at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health .
Chemicals, diseaseseven the ebb and flow of hormonescan all be thought of as environmental exposures.
Looking After Your Mental Health
Because of the pain, fatigue and disruption to life, lupus can cause anxiety and depression.
Its important to talk to someone you trust if youre feeling down or worried. This could be a friend, relative or a healthcare professional. Versus Arthritis has a helpline if youd like to speak to one of our trained advisors. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm. Call free from the UK on 0800 5200 520.
Even if it doesnt affect the course of the condition, emotional stress can sometimes make lupus seem worse. Its not always easy, but there are things we can all do to help manage stresses in our life. For example you might want to try relaxation techniques such as meditation or mindfulness.
Your doctor may be able to refer you to a psychologist who can help with coping strategies.
Therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy may help. This is a talking therapy that can help you manage problems by changing the way you think and behave. Its most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.
Regular exercise can improve feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
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Figure 1 An Infographic Showing Different Types Of Lupus Triggers
Triggers in a persons environment can cause a lupus flare, those periods when symptoms get worse. There is no way to tell if a flare will be mild, moderate, or severe. Some common flare triggers include:2-3
- Ultraviolet rays from the sun or fluorescent light bulbs
- Infections, colds, or other viruses
- Certain medicines, including sulfa drugs, tetracycline, and penicillin
- Emotional stress, such as a death in the family, divorce, or illness
- Physical stress, such as surgery or traumatic injury
- Pregnancy or giving birth
- Physical exhaustion or overwork
Each persons triggers are different, so learning your body and what seems to cause your flares can help you manage your disease. Some people have flares fairly often while others experience a flare once every few years or every 10 years.4
What Triggers Autoimmune Disease Flare
Studies suggest flare-ups are primarily the result of psychological and physical stress on the body . Moreover, some studies found that a high proportion of patients reported significant and uncommon emotional stress before their initial disease onset.According to one article, not only does stress cause disease, but the disease itself also causes significant stress in patients, creating a vicious cycle .Stresswhether physical, hormonal, mental, or emotionaland major stress-related hormones are implicated in the development and progression of autoimmune disease. It is presumed that various factors, including poor sleep, diet, illness, major hormone shifts, and climate involve neuroendocrine hormones which lead to immune dysregulation.This prolonged immune dysregulation can result in autoimmune disease, or the worsening of symptoms by changing or amplifying inflammatory cytokine production.
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How Do You Prevent Autoimmune Reactions
When people think of natural remedies they often think about herbs and supplements, but lifestyle choices like stress management techniques should be at the top of your list when attempting to decrease symptoms associated with an autoimmune flare-up. Theres no denying the powerful effect stress can have on your body and natural attempts to reduce stress tend to be quick-acting.
Common Symptoms Of Lupus Flare
During a flare-up, you may experience one or more of the following:
- Extreme fatigue
- Light sensitivity
- Sores/ulcers in the nose or mouth
Symptoms vary from person to person, as well as from flare-up to flare-up. One flare-up might result in joint pain, while the next might cause hair loss. A flare-up might be a mild rash one time and a severe rash in the next.
This variability is one of the many reasons why open communication with your doctor is so important. They can work with you to identify warning signs of oncoming flares based on bloodwork, physical exams, and your own symptom history.
Its also a good idea to track your flare-ups so that you know what to look out for. The Lupus Foundation of America has a downloadable Lupus Flare Plan worksheet you can use as a guide.
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How To Spot Signs Of Stress
Stress is a natural âflight-or-fight” response your body has when youâre under pressure. Lots of things can cause it. The first step to managing stress is learning to recognize it. When youâre stressed, you may have:
- Muscle tension
- Aches and pains, including headache
- Stomach pain or issues with digestion
- Dizziness or shaking
- Chest pain or a racing heart
If you do get dizzy, have chest pain, or feel your heart racing, get emergency help.
When youâre under stress, it can affect your emotional and mental health and lead to:
- Panic attacks
If you notice these symptoms, ask yourself what might be causing them. Is it work, part of your daily work-life routine, lupus symptoms, unpredictable flares, or doctor visits? Write down any patterns you may notice. That can help you identify stress triggers and come up with a plan to properly manage your stress.
How Can I Tell The Difference Between Normal Fatigue And A Lupus Flare
If you have lupus, and your work or home life requires high levels of energy, it is normal to feel exhausted. Not every bout of fatigue is a lupus flare. The best way to determine whether or not you are having a flare is to learn about lupus symptoms and triggers, track them carefully, and share them with your doctor.
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How Long Does Autoimmune Flare
Depending on the severity of the natural stressor that is causing the flare-up, symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several months. For some autoimmune disease sufferers who are not receiving treatment, symptoms of an acute flare-up may subside on their own without medical intervention after one or two weeks.However, for others with unmanaged or more serious cases of autoimmune conditions, flare-ups may be an everyday struggle.People with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimotos thyroiditis, psoriasis, and Lupus experience flare-ups that can last for several months or even years. For these individuals, natural therapies like diet and lifestyle changes are key to successfully managing the disease. These natural remedies often play a tandem role with conventional Western medicine interventions.
Treatment Options For Lupus Flare
Treatments for a lupus flare-up may include:
- Biologics, a special kind of disease-modifying antirheumatic drug
It may be necessary to combine treatments to control lupus flare-ups and lessen the risk of organ damage. Your treatment plan may change depending on the severity and frequency of your flare-ups. It may also change as you move into remission.
Getting the right medical care can ensure a normal lifespan and vastly improve your quality of life.
Oxidative Stress And Lupus
Oxidative stress is a process that naturally occurs in our bodies. It starts with mitochondria, little cells within our cells that turn the raw materials that we eat and oxygen into energy for the cell. As a by-product, they produce oxygen molecules that are highly volatile, known as reactive oxygen species or free radicals. These free radicals have too many electrons, which they give to other molecules in the cell, including enzymes and DNA. This is called a reaction, and it causes chaos as molecules break apart, change shape, and become useless to the cell.
The body has ways to stop oxidative stress, using substances called antioxidants, which either take away the extra electron or bind up the free radical, where it can cause no more harm. You might be familiar with some antioxidants, including Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. This is one of the reasons its important to eat fresh fish, fruits and vegetables.
However, when stressed, the body seems to produce more free radicals than usual. While this may help prevent infection , it also leads to more cell damage. This damage may then lead to symptom flares, or make a symptom flare worse.
Planning A Natural Diet
When possible, eat foods that are easily digestible like minimally processed carbohydrates, and protein, and avoid very fatty or fried foods before and during any kind of travel. If you know there will be less than ideal food options available when youre traveling, you can include some natural anti-inflammatory remedies to support your immune system if its already under stress.
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Blood And Blood Vessels
Lupus may also cause anaemia, which is when you have a lack of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen around the body, and if you dont have enough of them you can get out of breath and tire quickly. If you have these symptoms you should tell your doctor or nurse specialist.
People with lupus might also have a low number of platelets, cells that help the blood to clot. If you find that you are bruising easily or notice bleeding from the gums or nose you should let your doctor or nurse specialist know. Lupus can also affect your white blood cells, which are important in fighting infections.
Some people with lupus are more at risk of developing blood clots in veins or arteries. This problem is usually caused by antiphospholipid antibodies. These autoantibodies can also affect pregnancy, causing an increased risk of miscarriage.
If blood clots occur blood thinning medication will be needed.
What Are The 7 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases
Though there are more than 80 recognized types of autoimmune diseases to date, there are several which affect more individuals than others.
- Lupus is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting women more than men, and is often misdiagnosed as other natural health problems like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Hashimotos thyroiditis affects about 14 million Americans and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism or low thyroid.
- Type I diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus , affects about five percent of Americans and usually appears in childhood or adolescence.
- Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic inflammation to natural joints including your wrists, ankles, feet, and fingers which can lead to pain and disability.
- Multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord which can cause problems from vision issues to muscle weakness or paralysis depending on where in your body the natural lesions are located.
- Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition affecting about seven million Americans with symptoms including itchy red patches of skin covered with natural scales that can appear anywhere on the body.
- Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten, a natural protein found in common grains like wheat and rye which affects one out of every 133 Americans.
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What About The Relationship Between Stress And The Onset Of Lupus
The exact cause of lupus is unknown. Isolating the cause of lupus and other immune disorders is a very active area of research around the world. To date, there is some evidence that supports a number of possible factors that lead to the development of lupus. For one thing, the genes that are inherited from parents to children clearly play a role in increasing the tendency toward developing lupus or other so-called autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and immune thyroid disorders. Thus, other autoimmune diseases are more common among relatives of patients with lupus than in the general population.
Environmental factors also seem to play some role. For example, symptoms of lupus might first occur after exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. Further, some scientists hypothesize that the immune system in patients with lupus is more easily activated by external factors, such as viruses and ultraviolet light. What’s more, a variety of drugs has been reported to trigger lupus. Finally, the sex hormones are also believed to be factors in predisposing a person to lupus. For example, women are affected with lupus far more often than are men.
Can Foods Trigger A Lupus Flare
Some foods like alfalfa sprouts and garlic may trigger lupus flares. Thats because they increase immune system activity, and the immune system is already too active in lupus. The studies to support this arent very strong, but many lupus experts agree that its reasonable to consider avoiding these if possible. Accidentally eating one of these foods is OK and will not result in immediate harm. The same is true for Echinacea, a dietary supplement some people take while sick to get better faster. Try to avoid this.
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How Is Lupus Treated
There is no cure for lupus, however there are different medications that can help to control it very effectively. If your condition is controlled early, the likelihood of later complications may be reduced.
There are also many strategies you can use to manage your condition, including physical activity and other lifestyle changes.
What Are Your Triggers
When you think about instances that make you feel depressed, stressed or anxious, are they usually related to a specific obstacle or challenge? It is important to identify the triggers that you can control versus those that you cannot. Some triggers are related to your lupus , but some are linked to behaviors or circumstances. For example, if a relative puts you down and makes you feel bad, it may make you feel depressed or stressed out. Lifestyle choices such as choosing the people you surround yourself with can help lessen triggers.
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