What is lupus and how is it treated?

Autoimmune condition not currently curable but symptoms can be treated individually

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 15 December 2022 13:18 GMT
TV personality Louise Thompson reveals she has been diagnosed with lupus

Reality TV star Louise Thompson has revealed that she has been diagnosed with the chronic autoimmune condition lupus.

Writing on Instagram, the Made in Chelsea regular, 32, said: “I had a call yesterday with one of the rheumatology guys and they got more of my blood test results back and the diagnosis is that I’ve got drug-induced lupus. So I’m suffering from that, which is fabulous.

“I feel like I’m constantly navigating so many different things and I could just cry, it all just feels so heavy,” she added, alluding to the mental health issues she has faced since the birth of her son Leo a year ago.

She continued: “I was just on the bus going to one appointment this morning and when I stood up and started walking to the appointment, my knees were in such agony. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.

“I’ve always been so able-bodied and so active, exercise has been such a big part of my life and it’s just so rough having to adapt to all of these new medical conditions, so that’s been really tough.”

American pop star and actress Selena Gomez has also suffered from lupus and underwent a kidney transplant operation to address it, but what exactly is the condition, what are its symptoms and how is it treated?

The NHS says lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, is a long-term condition that subverts the immune system, causing the body’s natural defence measures to turn on healthy organs.

There is currently no cure but it is not contagious.

Precisely what causes it is not clear but viral infections, adverse reactions to certain medicines, sunlight, puberty, childbirth and the menopause have all been proposed as possible instigators and it is understood to be more likely to affect women than men and black and Asian women more than caucasian women.

The health service advises anyone experiencing the following symptoms to seek an appointment with their GP: joint and muscle pain, extreme tiredness that will not go away no matter how much you rest and rashes on the nose and cheeks.

Secondary symptoms include: headaches, mouth sores, high temperature, hair loss and sensitivity to light, resulting in rashes on exposed skin.

The NHS stresses the importance of an early diagnosis to successful treatment and warns that lupus can prove difficult to identify because the tell-tale signs of it manifesting, such as the inflammation of vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys, are similar to other conditions.

GPs will usually order a blood test to determine whether lupus is prevalent, the number of antibodies present indicating how severe a case the individual may have.

X-rays and scans might then be deemed necessary to survey the extent of any organ damage.

Anyone diagnosed with lupus is then likely to be called back for further blood and urine tests as their condition lingers, with symptoms likely to come and go in periods of relapse and remission.

Lupus is typically treated with anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen, hydroxychloroquine for fatigue and skin and joint problems and with steroid tablets, injections and creams for kidney inflammation and rashes.

In severe cases, rituximab and belimumab might be administered to target the number of antibodies in the blood and boost the immune system.

The NHS recommends managing symptoms by using high-factor sun cream, staying active without exhausting yourself, trying relaxation techniques to stave off stress, seeking support from your friends, family and employer and maintaining a balanced diet rich in Vitamin D and calcium.

Stopping smoking and avoiding long periods of exposure to bright lights and the sun are also advised.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in