Treating and Managing Lupus Erythematosus: Can It Be Cured?
Lupus erythematosus is a widely recognized autoimmune disease that can impact various organs within the body. If left undetected and untreated, it can lead to severe complications that significantly affect a patient's overall health.
1. Understanding Lupus Erythematosus
Lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease with an unknown cause, affecting multiple organs in the body. In severe cases, it can even be life-threatening.
Under normal circumstances, our immune system defends against foreign agents such as bacteria and viruses. However, in autoimmune diseases like lupus erythematosus, the immune system loses its ability to differentiate between self and foreign cells. Consequently, it starts attacking the body's own cells by producing antibodies against various organs.
The disease is also referred to as systemic lupus erythematosus. The term "lupus" is derived from the Latin word for wolf, alluding to the characteristic facial redness resembling a wolf's bite. Meanwhile, "systemic" indicates that the disease affects multiple organs in the body.
2. Symptoms of Lupus Erythematosus
Lupus erythematosus can manifest suddenly or gradually over a period of months or even years. Since the disease can affect almost any organ, the symptoms can vary and often worsen during the winter season. Common symptoms include:
- Weight loss, fatigue, hair loss, low-grade fever, mouth ulcers, muscle aches, pain in small joints, and menstrual disorders (in female patients). These nonspecific symptoms are observed in over 90% of patients seeking medical care.
- Around three-quarters of patients develop abnormal redness on the skin. The most common is a butterfly-shaped redness on the face, known as a malar rash. This rash extends over the cheeks and crosses the bridge of the nose, serving as a hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus.
- In advanced stages, patients may experience lesions in internal organs, nerves, and blood vessels. These can include conditions like myocarditis, pericardial effusion, pleural effusion, pneumonia, glomerulonephritis, mental disorders, seizures, hemorrhage, and anemia.
- Symptoms often appear in waves, alternating between periods of flare-ups and remission.
- Initially, the symptoms are often vague and resemble those of various other diseases. Consequently, it may take several years from the onset of symptoms before an accurate diagnosis can be made.
3. The Curability of Lupus ErythematosusWhile systemic lupus erythematosus cannot be completely cured, it can be managed effectively with appropriate treatment. During disease flares, patients need to prioritize rest while also engaging in a suitable exercise regimen to prevent muscle atrophy and stiffness.
Medications commonly used to treat systemic lupus erythematosus include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen, Nimesulide, etc. These drugs effectively alleviate symptoms in muscles and joints but carry the risk of causing stomach and duodenal ulcers. They should be taken with food.
- Corticosteroids possess potent anti-inflammatory effects but have more side effects compared to NSAIDs. These drugs are reserved for severe cases where organ damage has occurred. Common side effects include peptic ulcers, osteoporosis, stretch marks, increased blood sugar levels, elevated infection risk, adrenal suppression, etc. As a result, corticosteroids are typically taken once after breakfast.
- Antimalarial drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine exhibit positive effects on skin and joint lesions.
- Immunosuppressive drugs like Cyclophosphamide (Endoxan), Azathioprine (Imuran), and Cyclosporine (Sandimmun) carry significant risks and side effects. They are used only in severe cases when patients do not respond to corticosteroids alone.
Adherence to the prescribed treatment plan is crucial for effectively controlling the disease. Additionally, patients should:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid psychological stress.
- Minimize exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, as they can trigger or worsen disease flares.
- Never abruptly discontinue medications, especially corticosteroids, as doing so can lead to disease exacerbation.
In conclusion, lupus erythematosus cannot be completely cured, but with proper treatment adherence, the disease can be effectively controlled. Patients should also adopt a healthy lifestyle, avoid environmental triggers, and promptly consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to their medication regimen.