It often seems like lupus is a disease bent on deception. It can evade diagnosis with symptoms that mimic or overlap those of other health conditions. And there is no one test that diagnoses it definitively. But despite its complex, even duplicitous characteristics, lupus, once properly diagnosed, can often be treated successfully with an integrative approach that addresses the underlying causes of the disease.
What Is Lupus?
To understand what treatments may be effective against lupus, it's important to first understand the disease itself. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that creates systemic inflammation throughout multiple body systems. An autoimmune disease is one in which the body's immune system turns on its own tissues. Rather than fighting something that's actually hostile to your body, such as a virus, an autoimmune disease causes your body to start fighting a part of your body, like your joints, brain or kidneys.
Lupus alone can attack a person's joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, lungs and brain, creating disabling and sometimes deadly reactions. The most common form of lupus is known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, there are rarer versions of the disease: discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE), drug-induced lupus and neonatal lupus.
The symptoms of lupus can vary and can mimic other conditions. No two patients will experience the disease exactly the same. However, the most frequent symptoms include:
- Malar rash
- Sun sensitivity, often leading to a rash or skin lesions
- Fatigue and fever
- Arthritis-like joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Raynaud's phenomenon (fingers turning white then blue in response to cold or stress)
- Dry eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Memory loss and confusion