Lupus or Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can affect any organ or system in the body.
On average it takes 4 years for someone to be diagnosed with Lupus.
This sounds like a long time and if you are waiting on a diagnosis I am sure you are hoping that you will not have to wait so long. There is no definitive test for Lupus, this coupled with its insidious nature is what makes coming to a diagnosis so difficult.
Being told you have an autoimmune disease is often scary and leaves you feeling alone and wondering what the future holds. Will you live a normal life? Will you be able to have children? Will your life be cut short because of your disease? These are all questions I am sure you have asked yourself, the future need not be so bleak!
The immune system and what an autoimmune disease is.
The immune system, which is there to protect us, it is made up of lots of different parts including- white blood cells called leukocytes, the spleen, lymph nodes, the intestines and antibodies.
An autoimmune disease means that the body has somehow got confused. It cannot clearly differentiate between a foreign invader such as bacteria or a virus like the common cold, which it must attack and kill, and its own self. Therefore the immune system begins to develop an army of antibodies to attack the body.
Once this process begins it is very hard to switch it off and bring the immune system back into line. Hard but not impossible!
During the process of this self-attack the body creates inflammation, the inflammation can be present anywhere. With SLE the skin, stomach, kidneys and joints can all be affected. Many other diseases present with inflammation and cause mysterious aches and pains just like Lupus- arthritis, lymes disease (a virus caused by a tick), chrohns disease, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease just to name a few.
Autoimmune conditions are often complex and can either affect one organ such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which affects the thyroid gland, or be systemic like Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis or Sjörgen’s syndrome. Systemic by definition means it can affect any organ and any system in the body.