Posted by on November 17, 2015 - 2:57pm

Autoimmune diseases are those where the body, for whatever reason, starts fighting its own cells with an immune response in the same way it would if the cells were a foreign invader (bacteria, virus etc). Women are more likely to get a whole host of autoimmune diseases than men are (see table to the left), including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Apparently, out of all the people suffering from auto-immune diseases in the US, 80% are female. That’s a phenomenal bias for a condition that, on the surface at least, has no clear tie to gender. According to the research (great review here), our increased risk of getting these diseases is simply our great immune systems working against us. Apparently, our immune systems are so great that we’re less prone to infection and have a much greater antibody response to those little invaders that do get in. Unfortunately, our systems are so strong that they also tend to go into overdrive, leading to this attack of our own bodies.

The culprits (or overachieving heroes, depending on how you look at it), are likely exactly what you’d expect: hormones or chromosomal influences. The hormone research actually shows that during pregnancy, women's immune systems switch to a far less aggressive regimen, likely to avoid attacking the fetus as an invader. This decreased immunity is the reason for the increased risk of pregnant women getting the flu, but it’s also the reason that many pregnant women notice a decrease in their symptoms of autoimmune disorders. It’s amazing to think that both the bad and the good stem from the same source: an incredibly strong immune system.


Posted by on May 27, 2011 - 7:48am

Classic Butterfly Rash

Yet many people do not know what lupus is and how serious it can be.  Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, and brain.  Normally the body's immune system makes proteins called antibodies that protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders. These foreign invaders are called antigens.

In an autoimmune disorder like lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies that, simply put, attack the body itself. This causes inflammation, pain and damage to various organs.

Inflammation is considered the primary feature of lupus. Inflammation causes pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function, inside and/or outside the body.   For many people, lupus can be a manageable disease with relatively mild symptoms. For others, it may cause serious and even life-threatening problems.

Sometimes people with lupus experience a "flare." This occurs when some symptoms appear or get worse for short periods then disappear or get better. Even if you take medicine for lupus, you may find that there are times when the symptoms become worse. Learning to recognize that a flare is coming can help you take steps to cope with it. Many people feel very tired or have pain, a rash, a fever, stomach discomfort, headache, or dizziness just before a flare.  It is not infectious, rare or cancerous.

It’s estimated that more than 16,000 Americans develop lupus each year.  We do not know the cause, but scientists believe some people are predisposed to the disease.  In the United States, lupus is more common among African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans than Caucasians.

Symptoms of lupus include:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fever greater that 100∘F
  • Prolonged or extreme fatigue
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Kidney problems
  • Chest pain, especially when breathing deeply
  • Rashes especially on the face
  • Light sensitivity
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Eye problems (dry eyes, inflammation, rashes0
  • Seizures
  • Mouth or nose ulcers

To learn more about lupus visit:  Could I have Lupus. If you want to test your knowledge on lupus, take this QUIZ.