Living with Lupus is an ongoing struggle for those who have contracted the disease. A chronic autoimmune disease, Lupus can affect the entire body with a hyperactive immune system attacking normal, healthy tissue. Up until recently, a lupus diagnosis was equivalent to a sentence of suffering. Treatments have advanced, and now most lupus cases are manageable.
As the world population ages, it is not uncommon to discover people who have developed lupus late in life. Very little is known about Lupus in seniors, but it clearly differs from a younger onset of the disease. It is often misdiagnosed as another rheumatic disease. As a result, a significant delay in its diagnosis is common.
How Does Lupus Affect the Body?
Lupus is an impairment in the body’s immune system that results in the body attacking its own healthy cells and tissues. This can cause serious damage to basically any and every part of the body.
Even if lupus is properly treated, it can still lead to other complications and conditions such as:
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Kidney problems
- Blood clots
- Memory loss
- Increased susceptibility to infection
Living with Lupus: Early Warning Symptoms and diagnosis
Lupus can be a particularly tricky disease to recognize and diagnose. There is no single laboratory test that can be administered. The symptoms common to lupus, are also common to numerous other ailments making it difficult to spot, and these symptoms may come and go. It may take several years to get a diagnosis.
Usually, four or more of the following eleven criteria must be present to make a lupus:
- Malar rash: butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
- Discoid (skin) rash: raised red patches
- Photosensitivity: skin rash as result of unusual reaction to sunlight
- Mouth or nose ulcers: usually painless
- Arthritis (nonerosive) in two or more joints, along with tenderness, swelling, or effusion.
- inflammation of the lining around the heart (pericarditis) and/or lungs (pleuritis)
- seizures and/or psychosis
- excessive protein in the urine
- anemia, low white blood cell count, or low platelet count
- antibodies to double stranded DNA, antibodies to Sm, or antibodies to cardiolipin
- Antinuclear antibodies (ANA): a positive test in the absence of drugs known to induce it.
Living with Lupus: Treatments
Although there is no cure for lupus, there are treatments to help alleviate symptoms and curtail the amount of organ damage.
Certain medications have proven effective in battling the negative symptoms of lupus. Corticosteroids are used to suppress the immune system. This helps diminish the attack of the immune system on itself. Acetaminophen can be used to relieve the arthritis-like symptoms that are characteristic of lupus.
Older adults diagnosed with lupus tend to have milder symptoms with less involvement of the major organs. Although every individual case is different, older adults with the disease usually can get by with simpler treatments and lower doses of medications.
Other treatments include the old faithful methods, like a nutritious diet, getting a healthy amount of sleep and exercise, and managing stress. Avoiding direct sunlight as much as possible can also be beneficial. Other lifestyle approaches can be found here.
The quality and effectiveness of treatments are improving rapidly, making it possible to live a fairly normal life after a lupus diagnosis.
Retire-At-Home Services Toronto and North York can provide quality home care services for people with lupus.