Lupus is an autoimmune condition that affects any part of the body. The body which typically forms antibodies against substances that are foreign to it, like bacteria or viruses. In lupus, the body begins forming antibodies against itself. The antibodies can be against specific parts of cells such as the mitochrondria or nucleus and can affect any organ or tissue system.
Lupus usually occurs in females between the ages of 18-44 years of age. It is a chronic condition, meaning it develops over a period of time, ususally about 6 weeks or more. This differs from an acute onset disease such as a heart attack, which has a very short onset and can be life threatening.
Lupus symptoms appear as inflammation, pain symptoms specific to the part of the tissue that has been damaged. There are several types of lupus; the most common is the systemic lupus erythematosis which affects organs and tissues. Other types affect other parts of the body. For example, discoid lupus erythematosus causes a skin rash that does not go away. Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus appears with skin sores caused from exposure to the sun. There is also a type of lupus caused from medication reactions.
Symptoms of lupus are varied and can include swelling of joints, skin rash, discoloration of skin, pale or purplish fingers, hair loss, malaise or tiredness, swelling around the eyes among others. Symptoms are varied and wise ranging. Diagnosis is made through a series of blood tests, along with observations of symptoms described above.
Blood tests usually demonstrate a decrease in white blood cells, anemia and a decrease in platelet count. There will be an increase in urine protein and the presence of casts, which are exfoliated from the inner lining of the kidney along with positive anti-nuclear antibody test (ANA).