What is Lupus?

Lupus Treatment - Rheumatologist

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease which can affect virtually any organ and tissue in the body. As such, it is also called “The Great Imitator”: if a disease presents with a baffling constellation of signs and symptoms, consider SLE (this honorific previously belonged to Syphilis). One reason for its diverse manifestations is that practically the entire repertoire of immune cells and immune mechanisms are involved in the pathogenesis.

As with any disease, genetics and the environment participate in its etiology. It is a polygenic disease, with culpable genes involved in autoinflammation, immune function, self recognition (tolerance), and autophagy (scavenging). Tissue damage (eg sunburn) is known to be a trigger; thus the advice to Lupus patients for UV protection. A recent intriguing discovery suggests that dysbiosis (“bad” gut bacteria) may drive the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Lupus?

SLE is a life threatening autoimmune disease affecting mainly young women, causing rashes, arthritis, blood problems and even major organ failure. As most patients may not present with the classical malar rash, or with multiple organ system involvement, diagnosis may be delayed.

What are the Treatments Available for Lupus?

Given the diverse nature and complexity of the immune attack, no single treatment target is likely to work for all SLE patients. Therapies targeting the innate immune response are showing promise, like inhibitors of Interferons and the Th17 pathway. Drugs targeting the adaptive immune system of T-cells and B-cells are already in clinical use, showing varying measures of success, depending on disease subsets.

Such targeted therapies are increasingly replacing more toxic blunt tools like cytotoxic drugs and high-dose corticosteroids, improving survival and quality of life by leaps and bounds.

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