Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: ‘The Great Imitator’

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (also called, “SLE”) is a serious autoimmune disease that can strike just about anywhere in the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lung, brain, and blood vessels. Some people live more easily with the disease because symptoms are infrequent and mild, while others experience severe symptoms that “flare”, or occur, on a regular basis. Women of childbearing age are more likely than others to develop the disease.

What are common lupus symptoms?

Lupus has been called the “great imitator” because its symptoms mimic other diseases. These include extreme fatigue, swollen, painful joints, a butterfly- shaped rash across the face, headaches, chest pain when taking a deep breath fever, sun-sensitivity and hair loss. Individuals can develop one or two symptoms over a long period of time, or many at once. Lupus is difficult to diagnose because it presents differently from person to person. Complicating matters is that no one test exists to make a definitive diagnosis.

How to get right diagnosis?

It starts by choosing the right physician: Rheumatologists are highly specialized in diagnosing, treating and managing the everyday issues of lupus. Getting an accurate diagnosis may take time and includes a medical and family history, various lab tests (including blood clotting, antibody tests, urine analyses, and others), and other methods as your physician sees fit.

How is lupus treated?

Your ARBDA Rheumatologist will tailor a treatment plan based on your symptoms and the frequency of your flares. Medications may be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling, to change how the immune system works, and to help prevent joint damage.

Since this is a chronic illness, you will work closely with your rheumatologist on a regular schedule. Depending on where your lupus symptoms occur in the body, you may also see a cardiologist for any problems affecting your heart, a nephrologist for kidney issues, and/or a dermatologist for skin disorders related to lupus.

Your rheumatologist will be the center point of communication for your clinical team, and will help you cope with the day-to-day challenges of living with lupus.