Risk Factors and Symptoms
SLE is estimated to affect 0.5% of the population and tends to be more severe with people of Oriental and Afro-Caribbean origin. It affects women 10 times more often than men. Aside from being female, your odds of getting the disease are higher if you are:
- of African-American, Latino or Asian descent
- aged between 20 and 40
- from a family with a history of lupus
There are many manifestations of SLE:
Joint Pain: Joint and muscle pain, particularly in the joints of the wrists, hands, fingers, and knees, are often the first signs of lupus. The joints may look inflamed and feel warm to the touch. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, lupus usually does not cause permanent joint damage.
Butterfly Rash: A distinct sign of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose. Other skin problems include sensitivity to the sun with flaky, red spots or a scaly, purple rash on the body, face, neck and arms. Some people develop mouth sores.
Fever and Fatigue: Lupus causes some degree of fatigue severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Most patients also run a low-grade fever from time to time, which may be the only warning sign in some people.
Light Sensitivity: Lupus causes unusual sensitivity to the sun and other forms of ultraviolet light causing skin rash.
Hair Loss: Hair may fall out in patches or become thinner. Post-flare up, new hair tends to grow back.
Raynaud's Phenomenon: Painful, numb, and tingly fingers and toes triggered by cold temperatures or emotional stress. This happens when small blood vessels spasm and restrict blood flow, causing the affected parts to turn red, blue and white at the same time.
Living With Lupus While there is no cure, the condition can be managed. People with severe lupus may benefit from immune-suppressant drugs that restrain the mutinous immune system. Doctors are now able to better balance disease control with the side eff ects of treatment. Lifestyle changes are also important. These include adequate sun protection, avoidance of smoking, regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management and plenty of rest. Some people with lupus need up to 12 hours of sleep a night. This multi-modal approach has helped people with lupus live significantly longer and healthier lives.