What Is Lupus and Am I At Risk?

doctor, lupus, dr. kimberly bolling

When your immune system is functioning normally and optimally, it produces antibodies to attack viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that could cause infections or illness. When you have the chronic autoimmune disease known as lupus, however, your body mistakenly sends those antibodies to attack and even destroy your own healthy tissues.

Lupus can damage and cause pain in your:

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 5 million women, men, and children around the world suffer from lupus. Women account for 90% of all lupus cases, which tend to appear during their childbearing years (from approximately ages 14 to 45). The disease disproportionately affects people of Asian, African, and Native American ethnicities.

Different types, different symptoms

Although lupus has a number of subtypes, the two main types are systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which can affect all of your systems, and cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), which affects only your skin.  Some cases of lupus are mild, but those that affect major organs, such as your kidneys, can be life-threatening.

Visible symptoms may include:

You could also experience:

Symptoms tend to flare, recede, and then flare again over time.

Factors that increase your risk

Because lupus tends to strike women in their childbearing years, most researchers believe that female sex hormones may account for why women are more likely to get the disease. Hormones such as estrogen are actually known as “immunoenhancing” hormones, which make women’s immune systems stronger than men’s. Unfortunately, that extra strength also raises the risk for autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

You’re more likely to develop lupus if you have a sibling or another close family member with the disease. You may also be more at risk if you smoke or have been exposed to:

If you think you have the symptoms or risk factors of lupus, Kimberly Bolling, MD — an expert internist in Bowie, Maryland — conducts a thorough examination, takes a personal and family history, and performs any necessary blood tests or other tests to diagnose or rule out lupus.

Managing lupus lets you enjoy life

If Dr. Bolling diagnoses lupus, she designs a treatment plan that’s unique to your case. In most cases, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, getting more exercise, and eating more whole foods are the first steps toward managing symptoms. She advises always wearing sunscreen of SPF 30 or more when you’re outdoors or near a window, including while driving.

Dr. Bolling may also recommend:

Treating lupus helps you control symptoms and live a rich, full life. Call us today for a lupus evaluation or use the online booking form.

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