According to The Lupus Foundation, 1.5 million Americans suffer from lupus. This chronic inflammatory disease most commonly affects women of childbearing age. But, many children also develop this condition.
To put this into perspective, five to 10,000 teenagers have systemic lupus. The systemic form is just one of the four types of lupus. Plus, this estimate only applies to teens. Can you imagine, then, how many thousands of young ones are living with this disease?
This raises two important questions. How can you recognize possible symptoms of this disease in your child? If your child is diagnosed, what treatments are available?
What it is, What is Does
As mentioned earlier, this is a chronic inflammatory condition. A glitch in the autoimmune system causes the body to attack healthy tissue and organs. This results in a grip of unpleasant symptoms. Which symptoms, though, depends on the type that an individual has.
Systemic lupus is by far the most common. It is so named because it can affect many organ systems including the heart, lungs, kidneys and skin to name a few. It causes:
– Chronic inflammation in the affected areas of the body
– Chest pain when taking deep breaths
– Fever with no cause
– Hair loss
– Increased sensitivity to sunlight
– Mouth sores
– Skin rash (usually a “butterfly” rash across the nose and cheeks, which worsens with exposure to the sun)
– General and ongoing discomfort
Another form, called drug-induced lupus, leads to symptoms of systemic lupus. It can result from long-term use of certain medications, including some for acne. This may be of special concern if you are the parent of a teen. It’s good to note, though, that symptoms subside once the medication at fault is discontinued.
Then, there’s cutaneous lupus, also known by the name discoid. This form makes up 10% of all cases and affects only the skin. This results in:
– Patchy, crusty, coin-shaped lesions (which usually appear in areas exposed to the sun)
– Patchy, bald areas on the scalp
– Lesions in the mucous membranes (mouth and nose)
– Noticeable darkening or lightening of older lesions
– Firm lumps in the fatty tissue under the skin
Last but not least, there is neonatal lupus, which affects fetuses. This condition can occur even if the mother herself does not have the disease. The baby may then be born with:
– Skin rash
– Low blood cell count
– Liver problems
Generally, these symptoms disappear within six months and have no lasting effects.
Help for Children With Lupus
The above symptoms certainly don’t sound like a walk in the park…especially for a child. You might be wondering, then, what treatments are available. How will your child be able to cope with this condition?
While there is not yet a cure available, symptoms can be successfully tackled. Your child’s doctor may prescribe:
- Anti-inflammatory medications for pain, fever and swelling
- Immunosuppressants, which suppress the reactions of the immune system
- Corticosteroids, which are helpful for pain
You’ll be happy to know that there are things you can do to help. Like what? You can encourage:
- A healthy diet and exercise to limit inflammation
- Rest to prevent pain from overexertion
- Adequate sun protection
All of these things can help to quell symptoms that could otherwise put a damper on your child’s everyday life.