Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or “lupus,” is a long-term autoimmune illness. In lupus, the body's immune system that normally protects from infection and disease, turns haywire and causes inflammation and damage to the body's cells and organs.
Lupus develops among people who inherited the tendency for the disease and are exposed to certain triggers, such as sunlight, fluctuating or excess hormones, medications, infections, pregnancy, and stress.
In the Philippines, lupus occurs in around 30 to 50 per 100,000 people. Around 9 in 10 adults living with lupus are women. The symptoms usually start when they are between 20-40 years old. SLE can also affect men, the elderly, and even children. It is more widespread than most people think.
SLE can present itself in different ways and, like thumbprints, no two patients are exactly the same. It can be very mild, or bad enough to cause hospitalization. It may even lead to death, especially if left untreated.
Lupus can involve any organ of the body, most frequently the skin, muscles, bones and joints, blood, and the kidneys. The more common symptoms of lupus include the following:
There is no single test that can tell us a person has SLE. All the signs and symptoms and the results of several laboratory tests that demonstrate the presence of inflammation in different organs and the presence of autoantibodies in the blood are considered.
Similar to other long-term autoimmune conditions, medications have to be maintained to control inflammation and prevent damage in the body. Anti- inflammatory medicines (non-steroidal and/or corticosteroids), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, azathioprine, mycophenolate, cyclophosphamide, and/or cyclosporin) and medicines to manage other concomitant diseases are prescribed. The treatment depends on the predominant manifestation of the disease, individual characteristics of patients, and their preferences and resources. Use of these medicines have to be closely coordinated with one’s rheumatologist if SLE is diagnosed. Sun protection, stress management, good hygiene, healthy eating, sleep, and physical activity form a crucial part of the daily treatment.
People living with lupus can keep their disease under control, prevent complications, and live well. The following are important reminders: