Strides in Detecting and Treating Lupus

Lupus is a notorious mimic. The autoimmune disease is difficult to diagnose because it has such a wide variety of symptoms that two people seldom present with the same set, while at the same, time, there are very few symptoms a patient can display that are definitely not lupus.

Common lupus symptoms include

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Sun sensitivity
  • A general feeling of being sick.

Unfortunately, these are all common symptoms, which could indicate any of a variety of underlying conditions. The most characteristic symptom of lupus, a butterfly-shaped rash on the face that gets worse in sunlight, is present in about half of lupus patients.

Now, however, new immunological studies are helping doctors better detect and treat lupus. For example, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently found that the immune response that causes lupus is the same as that triggered by parasitic worms, but different from the response to viral infections. That could mean that more narrowly targeted immunosuppressant drugs could someday be developed that only reach that particular type of immune activity.

Greater awareness of lupus is also helping get faster diagnoses. Since doctors know to look for lupus, patients with symptoms that may be the disease can be referred for testing to determine if it is.

If you have lupus symptoms, contact a health care provider. Even if you don’t have lupus, chest pains or sustained fever should not be ignored; those symptoms are likely to indicate something.

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