SLE, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or simply Lupus – I actually don’t care what people or doctors call it – for me, it means an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system (the soldiers of your body) becomes hyperactive and cannot distinguish between “self” and “foreign”. As a result, it attacks normal and healthy tissues. Since it is systemic, it does not localize on any organ or tissue.
The symptoms include:
- Damage to the body’s system like skin, kidneys, blood, heart, joints and lungs
Normally, the body has soldiers (antibodies) all meant to fight infection and diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. In patients with lupus (like myself), these soldiers cannot differentiate normal tissues and foreign bodies (medically known as antigens). So instead of attacking bacteria and viruses, the soldiers goes “mass destruction” causing pain, swelling and eventually tissue damage.
Lupus is chronic and by chronic I mean it can last for life. (lol)
The disease is characterized by a period of flare (periods when you’ll feel worse and ill) and quiescence (a period where symptoms improve and you feel slightly better – though this does not mean that all symptoms are gone).
- SLE is definitely not contagious. This means I can neither “give” anyone this disease nor can anyone acquire the disease from me. So, you’re safe.
- SLE is definitely not cancer. Cancer is a malignant spread of abnormal growth or tissue that can go into surrounding organs. Lupus is autoimmune – and that’s that.
- SLE is definitely not HIV or AIDS. As mentioned, it is not even contagious.
- The diagnosis of SLE can be mild to life-threatening and must be under physician’s treatment.
Causes of Lupus
Up to date, the cause of lupus remain unknown – which is why it is called idiopathic (I often joke that it is a disease of idiots because nobody really knows what causes it).
However, it is believed to occur within families or has genetic predisposition (sorry mom, dad I didn’t mean to point out the possibility that I may have acquired this from you and no – I don’t blame you for that – far from it really, I thank you even J).
But, I believe I am a genetic mutation – a 1 in a million occurrence and I just happen to be one of that million, ha-ha. Since I am female, changes in my hormone level has triggered the mutation, oops! Well, this is more likely because I usually get flares before menstrual periods (or at times after – really unpredictable).
Some other factors (which are related to flares) include: extreme stress, exposure to sunlight, medications or antibiotics, infections and chemical exposure.
Since nobody knows what causes lupus, I believe that it is safe to conclude – nobody knows the cure either (up to date). Recently, a new drug called Benlysta (Belimumab) has been approved by the FDA as a primary treatment to lupus. But well, it is hardly the miracle drug. I don’t ask for a cure anyway – just an alleviation of the symptoms (pain mostly) that prevents me from leading a healthy lifestyle.
When was I diagnosed?
I was diagnosed – July 19, 2002. Yes, I remember it well because it was my dad’s birthday. J Every time he celebrates his birthday, I celebrate the day that I almost died ha-ha. I was just kidding. I didn’t die and I believe there is a big reason why after 12 years I am still here. God still has a mission for me to complete otherwise He would’ve.
So, what is lupus?
Well, it is a disease. A disease I have grown not to hate but have grown to embrace. I am not my disease but my disease is me. I guess there is a big difference in that.