Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies to cells within the body leading to widespread inflammation and tissue damage.
Any part of the body can be affected by lupus as it has an array of clinical manifestations affecting the skin, joints, brain, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and other internal organs.
Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is the most common form of lupus. This article focuses on SLE and will refer to SLE as “lupus” throughout.
Below, What 7 Things to Know About Lupus
1. It’s not just growing pains.
Looking back, Mirian Alvarez, 28, of Boston, can pinpoint early symptoms: her fingers turning bluish-purple with cold weather; the knee pain that would come and go. “Oh, it’s growing pains,” she recalls doctors telling her.
“That summer after I graduated from college, I started to lose my hair in amounts that I knew weren’t OK,” Alvarez says. Next came fever, and her joint pain grew progressively worse. “I could not tie my own shoelaces,” she says. “It was hard to put on my clothes; to walk. It just didn’t make any sense to me, because I was so young. I looked normal. It was hard to explain to people: ‘Everything hurts.'”
2. Complications can occur.
Eventually Alvarez was diagnosed with lupus. But two years ago, the complication of inflammation of the lining of her heart put her in the emergency room. She’s doing better with that now but still has bouts of pain, particularly during winter or if she’s tired.
In Peterson’s case, a biopsy two months ago revealed she had a serious kidney infection called lupus nephritis, adding the potential for more complications such as high blood pressure and kidney failure. She’s under the treatment of a primary care physician in internal medicine, a rheumatologist and a kidney specialist or nephrologist.