Lupus: the Unpredictable Mayhem

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  • Topic: Systemic lupus erythematosus, Lupus erythematosus, Immune system
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  • Published : April 10, 2013
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Lupus: The Unpredictable Mayhem
Jake Keefer
Ms. Haley Madden
Life Sciences Communication 100
October 21, 2011

Have you ever wondered what would happen to yourself if your body turned on itself? Imagine your body ravaging on its own tissue like a pack of crazed dogs for no apparent reason. Well, there is actually a disease that has this effect on the body, and it happened to my cousin, Bethani Shipman. When asked how she felt before being diagnosed in 2010 Bethani said, “I was constantly in excruciating pain most of the time and it felt like my body was falling apart.” Not understanding what was going on with her body, she decided to make a trip to the doctor’s office. "I thought it was just stress. I was going through exams for my degree at UW-Eau Claire, and I was getting married and planning on moving abroad," Bethani exclaimed. She was in fact diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus. This is an autoimmune disease that can damage almost any part of the body. With lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs. Normally our immune system produces antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. These antibodies that mistakenly attack healthy tissues in the body are known as “autoantibodies” and can cause a lot of pain, inflammation, and serious damage (Lupus Foundation of America, 2011). Lupus is a very serious disease that can affect a lot of people, but with new research and medicine, doctors are making this disease much more manageable.

Nobody is quite sure what causes lupus. There is not a group of genes has been proven to cause this disease. Lupus can appear in certain families, for example, if one of two identical twins is diagnosed with this disease, the other twin has a very strong chance of having the disease as well (Bernier 2011). These results strongly suggest that genes are involved in the development of lupus. Although it is possible that lupus can develop in people with no family history, there are likely to have some family members who have a type of immune disorder. Certain nationalities have a greater risk of developing lupus, which may be related to genes they have in common (Lupus Foundation of America 2011). Genes may increase the chance of developing this disease, but environmental triggers are what begin to start symptoms. It is never the same for each person; an environmental trigger will cause a “flare up” and the effects of lupus start to kick in (Sheil 2008). There are many different things that can set up these flares; ultraviolet rays from the sun, stress to the body, surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, or even giving birth (Hartman 2007). Even taking certain antibiotics for an infection can cause a flare up in lupus patients. There are four different types of lupus that we are aware of. The first and most common from of this disease is systemic lupus erythematosus. There are several common symptoms of SLE involving major organ systems, which include affects of the body’s ability to dispose of waste from the blood and can be so damaging that dialysis or kidney transplant may be needed (Bernknop 2011). Next, patients may acquire inflammation of the nervous system and brain, which can cause memory problems, confusion, headaches, and even strokes. Another symptom is an increase in blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) (Lupus Foundation of America 2011). As you can see these are all very serious issues that systemic lupus erythematosus patients have to deal with. There are multiple treatments that help relieve the harsh symptoms of systemic lupus erythematsus. Anti-inflammatory medications help to relieve many of the symptoms of lupus by reducing inflammation and pain. Anti-inflammatories are the most common drugs used to treat lupus, particularly symptoms such as fever, arthritis or pleurisy, which generally improve within several days of beginning treatment....
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