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The Inner Battle

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The worst kinds of battles are the ones we fight against ourselves. Everybody is equipped with an immune system that defends the body against outer threats, such as viruses and bacteria. A strong immune system means that a person can easily avoid getting an infection or recover faster than a person with a vulnerable one. A healthy immune system would do what it takes to defend the body, but what happens if something goes wrong with the immune system? In such cases, it could  become the body’s worst enemy. The body then becomes “allergic” to itself; instead of attacking only viruses and diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. Diseases of that type are called autoimmune diseases.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is one of these autoimmune disease. It is a chronic disease and a life-threatening condition. Lupus, in Latin means wolf and "Erythematosus" in Greek means redness. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus gained that name because physicians who first diagnosed it thought that the rashes, which are one of its symptoms, looked like a wolf’s bite. It is called “systemic” because it attacks every single system of the body. That includes the lungs, the kidneys, the heart, and the brain. It can also affect the joints, the eyes, and the skin.

When the immune system attacks the healthy tissues of the body, the tissues become inflamed. The attack can also cause damage to the organs. With SLE, the immune system does not persistently attack the body; there are stages of inactivity called “remission” and there are stages of activity known as “flares”.

SLE is not easy to diagnose. It is sometimes called the “imitator” because its symptoms are similar to other diseases. Symptoms include—but are not limited to— mild fever, joint and muscle pain, flu-like symptoms, and fatigue. Someone who is suffering from SLE can have a long night sleep and wake up feeling tired. Another symptom is the “butterfly rash”, a red rash that covers the cheeks and crosses over the nose. It looks as if a butterfly is covering the face. To be diagnosed with SLE, the patient must be suffering from a certain number of symptoms, and certain blood tests are also needed.

Why the immune system turns against the body it is supposed to defend remains unknown. Unfortunately, there is no cure for SLE but that does not mean it cannot be controlled. There are many medications that reduce the symptoms; and for severe SLE, there are medications that suppress the immune system, such as immunosuppressant drugs and corticosteroids. Research shows that women are more susceptible to having SLE than men. It is a serious condition that should not be left untreated, but there is hope. Medications have tremendously improved the quality of life for many patients. The battle against SLE is not over and scientific research is still ongoing.

References

www.rheumatology.org
www.lupus.org.uk

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