July 24, 2024

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 Why Does Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Prefer Women and How Serious Is It?

 Why Does Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Prefer Women and How Serious Is It?

 Why Does Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Prefer Women and How Serious Is It?

Let’s delve into the details of what Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is and why it has a predilection for women.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is not a mere skin condition but rather an autoimmune disease. Despite being less talked about, it is a global health concern. According to data from the Lupus Foundation of America, over 1.5 million people are affected in the United States alone, with a global estimate of at least 5 million patients.

SLE ranks as the second-highest in global prevalence among autoimmune diseases, surpassing common perceptions of its rarity. It manifests as a systemic autoimmune disease, where the immune system, instead of protecting the body, becomes dysregulated, attacking various organs such as the skin, joints, blood, kidneys, and the brain.

The complexity of SLE symptoms arises from the inflammation and tissue damage that occur in these organs and tissues due to the assault from the immune system. Notably, nephrologists frequently encounter SLE patients since the kidneys are among the most commonly affected organs. Statistics reveal that approximately 40% to 60% of SLE patients experience kidney damage in the early stages, with 17% to 25% of lupus nephritis patients potentially progressing to end-stage renal disease, also known as uremia.

Moreover, pediatric SLE, occurring before the age of 18, accounts for about 20% of all cases, and its incidence in children has been on the rise in recent years.

 Why Does Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Prefer Women and How Serious Is It?

What causes Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and why is it more common in women?

The exact cause of SLE remains elusive in the scientific community, akin to the uncertainty surrounding the origins of many cancers. However, various factors increase the likelihood of developing SLE. It appears to be a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors.

Scientists have identified more than 50 genes associated with SLE, acting as unique codes in the body that may predispose individuals to the disease. Having a family member with SLE increases the likelihood of other family members developing the condition, but possessing these genes does not guarantee the onset of the disease.

Additionally, SLE is more prevalent in women, possibly linked to estrogen. While there’s no direct causal evidence between estrogen or any other hormone and lupus, many women experience more severe SLE symptoms during the premenstrual period or pregnancy when estrogen levels are higher, suggesting a potential role of hormones in regulating lupus activity.

Apart from genetics and hormones, environmental factors may also trigger SLE. Factors such as exposure to sunlight, certain infections, or the use of specific medications could contribute to the onset of the disease.

Recognizing the Common Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus:

Given the unpredictable nature of which organ the immune system may target and which symptoms may manifest first, it is crucial to be aware of common SLE symptoms:

  1. Fatigue and fever: Persistent fatigue and ongoing low-grade fever result from abnormal immune system activity causing systemic inflammation.
  2. Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling: Affecting joints such as wrists, fingers, and knees, these symptoms impact daily activities and quality of life.
  3. Butterfly-shaped rash on the face: A distinctive sign of SLE, this rash typically appears on the cheeks and nose, resembling butterfly wings.
  4. Photosensitivity: SLE patients may be sensitive to sunlight, and sun exposure can trigger or exacerbate skin lesions.
  5. Changes in fingers and toes under cold or pressure: Known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, digits may turn white or blue under cold or stressful conditions.
  6. Shortness of breath and chest pain: These symptoms may indicate SLE affecting the lungs or heart.
  7. Dry eyes and vision problems: Lupus can cause dryness in the eyes and issues with vision.
  8. Headaches, blurred consciousness, and memory loss: When lupus affects the brain, these neurological symptoms may occur.

Experts recommend that women of childbearing age, experiencing recurrent fevers alongside symptoms like mouth ulcers and joint pain, should consider the possibility of an immune system issue such as lupus. Seeking advice from an immunologist and undergoing additional blood tests could aid in early detection.

Furthermore, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus can lead to various complications, including kidney disease, central nervous system problems, blood and vascular disorders, pneumonia, and heart issues. Thrombocytopenia, a reduction in platelets, is one of the characteristic symptoms in lupus patients, as the immune system indiscriminately attacks and destroys healthy platelets, potentially leading to severe bleeding and other complications.

Common Misconceptions about Systemic Lupus Erythematosus:

  1. Does SLE always manifest with facial redness? Not necessarily. The symptoms of SLE are diverse, affecting various organs throughout the body. Facial redness, especially on the face, may be noticeable, but it is not a universal symptom.

  2. Does SLE, being hereditary, mean patients cannot have children? Not necessarily. SLE itself does not impact fertility, but due to potential risks to both the mother and fetus, family planning should be carefully considered. Pregnancy during periods of active disease or severe organ damage may lead to complications and adverse outcomes.

  3. Do SLE patients need lifelong steroid use? Not necessarily. While steroid therapy is a common approach for managing SLE, it is not a requirement for all patients. Treatment plans should be tailored to the severity of the disease and individual differences.

  4. Can SLE be discontinued if symptoms improve? No. SLE is a chronic disease with a risk of relapse. Patients should not self-discontinue medication. Trusting the guidance of healthcare professionals is crucial, and treatment decisions should align with their recommendations.

 Why Does Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Prefer Women and How Serious Is It?


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