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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

May 03, 2021

The human body is its best defense - it has a powerful immune system that reacts against foreign bodies or harmful microorganisms that can cause diseases.

However, at times, the immune system fails to differentiate between its own cells and foreign cells. The immune system, when triggered in such a way, then starts to attack its own cells. This is known as an “Auto-immune attack."
In the long term, these auto-immune attacks give rise to chronic, irreversible diseases known as ‘Auto-immune Diseases’ which have no cure and require lifelong management with immune suppressants.

One of the most common auto-immune conditions is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE),commonly referred to as ‘Lupus.'

What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an auto-immune condition that affects multiple organs and systems at the same time. Because it is a multi-system disease, it cannot be described only in terms of one or more methods. It is referred to as a whole-body disease at all times.

What Happens to Our Body In SLE?

Like any other auto-immune disease, the body’s immune system is compromised in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
The immune system directs the formation of an autoantibody called the ‘Anti-Nuclear Antibody’ (ANA), a protein. The ANA has a tendency to attack the cell’s nucleus. 

When the Anti-Nuclear autoantibodies see an easy cell target, they enter it and attack it, affecting the particular organ or system. When an auto-immune attack is launched by the immune system, ANA are released from the immune system. They attack the body’s healthy cells and their nuclei.

SLE occurs in flares. There are periods of complete resolution and attacks that occur episodically. These attacks are usually followed by triggering factors such as a mild viral infection or exposure to sunlight.

What Causes Lupus?

To date, the exact cause of SLE has not been identified. Hence, it is known as an idiopathic condition that can occur to anyone.

However, different risk factors are linked to its occurrence. The risk factors include:
  • Female Gender: Estrogen has been found to play an essential role in causing SLE in females.This could be one of the reasons why SLE predominantly occurs in females only.
  • Genetic Factors: Although this is not a compulsory occurrence, SLE has been linked with a positive history. Suppose a person has a strong family history of one or more SLE patients. In that case, there is a higher than average chance that s/he might get affected.
  • Environmental Triggers: Several environmental factors have been seen to trigger the flares of SLE. These include;

                 ■ could be unprotected exposure to the sun for long periods
                 ■ exposure to ultraviolet light
                 ■ trauma
                 ■ viral diseases
                 ■ etc.

Symptoms of SLE:

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus affects people in different ways. Some experience only mild symptoms, while others may suffer its full-blown effects.
Some of the common symptoms of SLE include:
  • Dry eyes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue and unexplained weakness
  • Tenderness, swelling, or pain in the joints
  • Oral ulcers
  • A pink, butterfly-shaped rash appears on the cheeks and the nose
  • Pallor or purplish tinge on fingers when exposed to cold or during periods of stress.

Treatment of SLE:

Since the understanding of auto-immune diseases such as SLE is limited, medical science has only been successful in managing the disease and not curing it.

The treatments for SLE are currently directed towards reducing the flare-ups and symptoms of SLE.

A few treatment protocols for SLE include:
  •  Preventing flares and treating flares when they occur. - Anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs, Steroids, and Immunosuppressants.
  •  Painkillers to relieve the pain and swelling that occurs in joints - NSAIDs and Steroids.
  •  Avoiding sun exposure without protection and exposure to ultraviolet light, Anti Malarial drugs have known effects in protecting the skin from rashes and UV lights.
  • Preventing infections beforehand - Regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants leads to infections from common pathogens. Infections require antimicrobials and antiviral management.
  • Prescribe immuno-modulating drugs to reinforce and activate the immune system. Immunosupprensants and biologics have a potent effect in controlling the immune system.
  • Control cholesterol and the resultant high blood pressure.
These are some of the most popular treatment protocols followed for keeping the person’s symptoms reduced to the minimum and avoiding unwanted flare-ups.

Best Home Remedies for Lupus:

1. Turmeric - contains an active ingredient known as curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties. The abnormal immune responses in Lupus manifest due to an inflammatory response triggered by autoimmune action on cells. By reducing the inflammation via anti-inflammatory compounds, the severity of the diseases is controlled.

2. Ginger - the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of turmeric can reduce arthritis that often accompanies Lupus.

3. Coconut oil - is one of the healthiest varieties of oil. It is essential to regularly monitor cholesterol levels and control them in SLE. Therefore maximum effort must be put into maintaining diet and using the healthiest options possible.

4. Flaxseeds - contain omega fatty acids, which are essential precursors for anti-oxidant formation.

Complications:

Suppose a person affected with SLE does not comply with the treatment protocol. In that case,there is a higher probability of developing complications that arise due to negligence.

Some of these complications include:

  • Extensive kidney damage leading to kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive decline and mental function impairment
  • Pneumonia
  • Bleeding and clotting disorders
  • Cancer
  • Multiple infections.
It is crucial to comply with treatment, follow-up medical visits, and understand the disease to prevent irreversible and grave complications.


References:

1. Justiz Vaillant AA, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. [Updated 2020 Dec 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535405/
2. Maidhof, W., & Hilas, O. (2012). Lupus: an overview of the disease and management options. P & T: a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 37(4), 240–249.
3. Encyclopedia, M., & erythematosus, S. (2021). Systemic lupus erythematosus: Medline-Plus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved 27 April 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000435.htm


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