Lupus

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s healthy tissue and can cause joint pain, fever, skin rashes, and organ damage. It is an incurable, complex disorder that can last throughout one’s life. 

What are the symptoms?

Lupus has a vast range of symptoms, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Blood clots
  • fatigue
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • chest pain 
  • Anemia
  • Dry eyes
  • depression
  • light sensitivity
  • headaches
  • mouth ulcers
  • memory problems
  • A butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
  • hair loss
  • Raynaud’s disease

What are the causes of Lupus?

The exact cause of lupus is unknown; however, its onset is thought to be from a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. 

Types of Lupus 

There are four primary types of lupus: 

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus.
  • Cutaneous lupus is a form of lupus that only affects the skin cells.
  • Drug-induced lupus is a disease similar to lupus caused by certain prescription drugs.
  • Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that can affect infants of women with lupus.

Who does it affect? 

While Lupus can affect most people, it is commonly seen in women ages fifteen to forty-five, those with a family history of lupus, and people who are African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander.

Lupus Treatments

When diagnosed with lupus, your doctor may suggest specific lifestyle changes along with medication.  These medications may include the following: 

  • Steroids (corticosteroids, including prednisone): Steroid creams can be directly applied to the skin and are usually safe and effective for mild rashes. 
  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®): This medication is commonly used to help manage skin and joint disease, fatigue, and mouth sores.
  • Azathioprine (Imuran®): A medication initially used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, this is commonly used to treat the more severe features of lupus.
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex®): This chemotherapy drug suppresses the immune system.
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®) and mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept®): These medications are chemotherapy drugs that have potent effects on reducing the activity of the immune system. 
  • Belimumab (Benlysta®): This monoclonal antibody reduces the activity of white blood cells that make autoantibodies.
  • Rituximab (Rituxan®): This medication is a monoclonal antibody that reduces the activity of white blood cells that make autoantibodies.

What is an Autoimmune Disease? 

Your immune system protects the body from disease and infection by attacking harmful germs in the body, like bacteria and viruses. Your immune system has a unique way of telling which objects are foreign and then destroys them accordingly. However, with an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy organ and tissue cells. Over eighty autoimmune diseases can affect relatively any part of your body. 

What causes autoimmune diseases?

There is no exact cause of autoimmune disorders, and even with all of the studies, they are still reasonably mysterious to the medical world. They tend to pass along genetically from generation to generation, meaning some people are more likely to develop an issue. Viruses, certain chemicals, and other environmental factors can trigger autoimmune diseases in some people.

Risk Factors

Millions of people of all ages have autoimmune disorders in the United States and across the globe. Women develop autoimmune diseases more often than men, but the reason is unknown. 

What are the symptoms?

Autoimmune disease symptoms depend on the part of your body that’s affected. Many types of autoimmune diseases cause inflammation symptoms like redness, swelling, heat, and throbbing pain. The symptoms of autoimmune diseases can flare up and then go dormant. During a flare-up, the symptoms may get severe, and you may have a remission.

How are autoimmune diseases diagnosed?

Autoimmune diseases can be challenging to diagnose. There’s usually no specific test to show whether you have a particular autoimmune disease, and many autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms, so it can take many doctor visits to find out precisely what is wrong. Seeing a specialist is recommended. 

Other Types of Autoimmune Diseases

Psoriasis

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) describes psoriasis as an immune-mediated skin disease characterized by the inflammation of immature skin cells from a dysfunctional immune system.

It is unclear what the exact cause of psoriasis is, and symptoms can occur at any age among men, women, children, and people of all ethnicities. When symptoms begin, the most common age range is between 15 and 25 years old, and they are typically long-term with highs and lows regarding severity.

Recent studies from medicine and health sciences professionals suggest that certain cannabis products may effectively treat the overactive immune system causing psoriatic disease. It can connect with the cannabinoid receptors of the body to combat the proinflammatory t-cell responses needed.

Crohn’s 

Crohn’s disease is a severe gastrointestinal (GI) disorder called inflammatory bowel disease. Another common form of inflammatory bowel disease is ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease symptoms can range from abdominal pain to loss of appetite to fatigue, diarrhea, or constipation, which are caused by chronic inflammation of the GI tract.

Timna Naftali conducted the first study in 2011 on Crohn’s Disease and medicinal cannabis. The study followed thirty patients with Crohn’s and recorded their disease severity before and after cannabis use. Researchers found that many users could decrease inflammation medications, including steroids. Approximately three-fourths of participants said they experienced decreased symptoms and daily bowel movements.

Another study discusses the cannabis plant’s potential for helping to relieve digestive inflammation and its anti-inflammatory properties by activating the endocannabinoid system, a fat-based system of self-made neurotransmitters. When CB2 receptors line the intestinal tissue, a P-glycoprotein transmitter will help decrease the body’s inflammatory and autoimmune responses.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a severe form of gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. IBS symptoms can range from abdominal pain to loss of appetite to fatigue, diarrhea, or constipation, which are caused by chronic inflammation of the GI tract.

Current research shows that more studies are warranted on inflammatory bowel syndrome and the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for modulating pain, controlling nausea, and slowing the intestinal digestion process. Small-scale human and animal studies continue to show promise, and the potential benefits are being researched further.

Can medical cannabis help? 

The cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant can activate the endocannabinoid system in the human body and may help many chronic issues. Cannabis activates CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in organs, muscles, and tissues. Cannabinoids can directly influence our ability to maintain homeostasis.

CB1 receptors are responsible for large and small bowel muscles and digestion in the intestines. Activating the CB2 receptors targets immune cells that can reduce intestinal pain and inflammation. Cannabinoids can even interact with other receptors influencing everyday auto immune functions.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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