Gilmer Free Press
Ask the Doctor: Progress Made in Treatments
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please say something about lupus.
What are the symptoms?
What causes it?
Is it fatal? - D.F.
ANSWER: When illnesses are classified, lupus is put in the same group of conditions to which rheumatoid arthritis is assigned.
It’s a multisystem disease, one that affects many organs and many tissues.
Among them are joints, skin, blood cells, kidneys, nerves, heart and the nervous system.
It’s a disease in which the immune system is responsible for most signs and symptoms.
It wages war on involved organs.
Evidence of the immune attack is seen in the strange antibodies found in the blood.
Signs and symptoms include painful joints, muscle aches and weakness, kidney involvement as demonstrated on lab tests, a drop in infection-fighting white blood cells, a similar drop in clot-forming platelets, disturbances of the heart and heart valves, and inflammation of blood vessels.
Several different rashes might appear on the skin.
One typical rash is the lupus butterfly rash.
The cheeks become red, and those red patches are connected by a wide red line that crosses the bridge of the nose and produces a silhouette resembling a butterfly.
Lupus patients lose their energy.
This all sounds very grim.
However, not every patient has all these signs and symptoms.
The illness tends to go through cycles when symptoms diminish alternating with periods when they worsen.
Prolonged exposure to the sun can trigger an interval of worsening symptoms.
Lupus used to be fatal.
It is rarely still fatal, but medicines have made this illness one that most endure without making huge changes in their lives.
The 10-year survival rate for lupus patients approaches 90%.
I won’t list all the drugs used for treatment.
Take my word.
There are many effective ones.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.