Lupus is a disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs (autoimmune disease). Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
Almost 80% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Why should this be?
From the evolutionarily standpoint, perhaps up regulation of immunity conferred a survival advantage. Women spent a much greater percentage of the time pregnant in Hunter gatherer days than they do at the present time, and an active immune system may have been an advantage in getting both you and your child’s genes through the many ancient environmental hurdles.
Women differ from men in the prominence of the X chromosome, the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and, surprisingly, in their microbiome. All three areas may play a role in autoimmunity.
The X chromosome contains many genes directly tied to Autoimmune diseases. One of these is a gene for TLR-7, which is important in the innate immune response, and is linked to disorders such as lupus and scleroderma. Another Gene, TASL, increases the production of interferon, a common inflammatory factor.
Many autoimmune diseases are driven by estrogen. For instance, estrogen attaches to, and turns on the gene that codes for interferon gamma. It activates B cells which produce antibodies. Progesterone, another female hormone is elevated in pregnancy, and tends to switch on the TH-2 response, which produces more antibodies. AIRE, the immune regulator itself, is partially influenced by the sex hormones.
A severe asthmatic I was treating became pregnant, and her asthma marvelously improved. I had always thought that pregnancy turned OFF her asthma-linked TH-2 response, going against one of the observations above.
At the present stage of knowledge, individuals may respond in perplexing ways to interleukins, treatments and pregnancy. Cellular interactions are complex indeed.
The microbiome in the male tends to increase testosterone, which tends to down regulate the immune system. The reverse is true for the female microbiome.
The fact that identical twins may be discordant with autoimmune disease favors environmental factors, such as the microbiome and other extrinsics such as smoking, diet, stress and chemicals. Some of the males who get autoimmune diseases tend to be feminized, such as in the Klinefelter syndrome, which has an extra extra X chromosome, and an XXY genotype.
The use of the estrogen or progesterone in the form of contraceptives tends to increase the likelihood of autoimmune diseases. The observation that women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases goes along with many of these genetic, hormonal, and environmental observations.
Please consult for Scientific American, September, 2021, P 40 for more information.
Lupus, which used to be called lupus erythematosus because of its butterfly rash and light sensitivity, is an auto immune disease, along with celiac disease and several other autoimmune diseases, it is the great imitator. It can affect almost any organ system.
The great variety of symptoms, and relative rarity leads to a difficulty in establishing the diagnosis. Eventually, you may be lucky enough to find someone who figures it out.
The butterfly rash over the bridge of the nose and cheeks is the most typical finding but it’s not present in all patients. Rheumatoid symptoms, including fatigue fever and joint involvement is common. Chest pain and shortness of breath can occur. Headache confusion and memory loss occurs. Involvement of the kidneys can also occur, it is often the involvement that is life-threatening. These are symptoms maywax and wane over a number of years.
The cause of lupus may involve a black background of infection, the medication, or even sunlight. As with most auto immune diseases, the actual cause is obscure.
Laboratory findings may include an anemia, kidney or liver involvement, and especially anti-nuclear antibody’s. Most people with lupus have a positive ANA test, but not all people with these positive tests have lupus. Other test maybe necessary.
Treatment is usually with Drugs which diminish the immune system. Targeting the B-lymphocytes specifically with rituximab or bulimumab may be helpful.
Lupus, the wolf, can be stealthy and severe. Patients often have to be their own advocate in order to get properly treated.
Please see the following mail clinic article for more information.
Our immune system contains cells that are part of us, and they evolved to protect us. They generally do a good job of this, as witnessed by our survival in a sea of viruses, microbes, and parasites.
However, just like our police force, occasionally the protective function goes awry and damage is done to our own body, in the protective act. For many years I was a practicing allergist, and observed this protective function misfiring. In allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma, tiny harmless particles in the air are interpreted by the body as a threat. The TH2 immune system, initially evolved to fight parasites, is activated, and causes considerable disease and misery.
Some of the antigenic determinants on the surface of the pollen, animal dander or dust particles are interpreted as being dangerous by the immune system, which causes chronic inflammation with acute allergy attacks.
Autoimmunity is a similar misreading, in which our own cells are deemed dangerous. In this case the immune agency is the more powerful Th-1 system, which often causes crippling or even fatal results.
Millions of people are sickened by an immune system that is supposed to defend them.
An article in the September 2021 issue of the Scientific American lists 76 of these disorders, and classifies them as to frequency, patient gender and age of onset. It is worth reviewing, at least for the listing on page 32 and 33.
Auto immunity must be considered as a possible cause in any illness that is not easily diagnosed, common, and well known to your doctor. Many patients have to be their own advocates, and persist in trying to get themselves diagnosed.
Celiac disease, Lupus, and Addison’s disease come to mind as tricky customers. Although “autoimmune disease” in toto is common, many of the individual diseases occur in less than one in 1000 patients, and are not high on the diagnostic list of most doctors.
The skin, nervous system, endocrine system, and digestive system are the most common areas involved. Recent advances in blood and antibody testing offers to give needed diagnostic help to the medical profession. These illnesses must be detected early to avoid functional loss in the tissues and organs affected.
Treatments are improving. In the past, immune suppressing cancer drugs and cortisone were the main drugs available. With increasing knowledge of the mechanisms of the separate diseases, treatment can be directed towards the specific causative antibody, receptor, or interleukin involved, hopefully with less side effects than the shotgun drugs previously available.
As with medicine in general, these modern treatments are excessively expensive as a rule, because much money and research went into their development. Prevention is obviously preferable. A healthy diet, with its attendant healthy microbiome comes to mind, as well as the avoidance of cigarette smoking and environmental toxins.
Proper sleep, exercise, and stress relief should also be helpful.
Sometimes I wake up in the morning with a feeling of RELAXED ENERGY. My mind is clear, I have no fatigue, and believe once more that the world is wonderful, and it’s great to be alive.
I St-re-tch, exercise my hands (I have Osteoarthritis, and they are stiff), take out my Nite guard ( I grind my teeth at night and would otherwise wear them away), take my beta blocker eye drops ( to lower my intraocular pressure) and wash down my Eliquis ( an anticoagulant to prevent stroke from my Atrial Fibrillation) with 16 oz. of water, while thinking about all of the delights awaiting me.
Yes, my body was in better shape 60 years ago; but I had much more responsibility then, and much less discretionary time. All things considered, I like to believe that I am happier now.
The KEY is to stay in GOOD HEALTH. GOOD SLEEP is critical, but it cannot be had by willpower alone. As I have discussed previously, you need a bedtime routine, good SLEEP HYGIENE.
You also need a…….. GOOD DIET. with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fatty, spicy foods will stay in your stomach and bother you at night, particularly if you eat Late. I like to finish eating by 5 PM. Late dinner is also likely to produce GERD, and maybe Sleep Apnea.
GOOD EXERCISE is also critical. If you are not tired at the end of the day, it is hard to get good sleep. I always seem to sleep better on the day when I walk the hills for an hour, which is 3 days a week. Try not to exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. Assuming that you have a good base of SLEEP, DIET and EXERCISE, there are other mechanisms that can foul things up. INFLAMMATORY conditions often cause fatigue.
The most common inflammatory diseases are OBESITY, METABOLIC SYNDROME and DIABETES. OBESITY is the defining disease of our EXCESSIVE SOCIETY, where there is too much of everything, and excessive consumption is relentlessly advertised everywhere.
External correction is probably a pipe dream, since there is no will even to Tax Sugar-containing Beverages, the “low hanging fruit” of dietary excess. Internal correction is all that is left, and that takes WILL POWER, also in short supply.
INFECTIOUS DISEASES are a subset of inflammatory conditions. COVID 19 is the poster child of infection, and FATIGUE is one of the hallmarks of the disease. Interleukins, like TNF-alpha, IL-1, andIL-6 are some of the defense factors which cause the fatigue. AUTOIMMUNE Diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus are also associated with fatigue-producing interleukins.
Fatigue even has its own flagship disease, CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME. Chronic viral disease has been suspected as the cause of this condition, and inflammatory cytokines may be elevated. This condition, and the similar GULF WAR SYNDROME are still poorly understood. Several CFS patients were sent to me when I was in practice, and I had some success in getting them to exercise regularly, which seemed to help. CANCER is another category of diseases where Fatigue is prominent.
Inflammation plays a role in these diseases, which also drain energy substrates from the Patients body; Cancer cells have a high metabolic requirement. MEDICATIONS, Cancer meds especially, but a variety of other Drugs are associated with FATIGUE. I went through MY MEDICATION LIST. Lo and behold, 3 of them are associated with fatigue.
Finasteride is a relic of my prostate operation, recommended to keep it from growing back. It causes fatigue, probably because of its ANTITESTOSTERONE effect. At least I can still pee, and am not bald. I take METFORMIN because of its fame in prolonging life. Its mechanism is that of interacting with the Sirtuin system, and increasing the inefficiency of mitochondria. Isn’t this surprising?
Like many other things in physiology, you place a stress on the body, and the body responds by improving its performance. If you are fatigued, you exercise. Respecting the body works with drugs as well. If you are drinking a ton of coffee and stop it, after a few weeks you will feel less fatigued.
And when you ARE FATIGUED, you drink a LITTLE coffee, and it wakes you right up. Caffeine works by displacing ADENOSINE, which causes Fatigue as it increases through the morning, peaking at SIESTA (or tea) time,at about 2 PM. OMEPRAZOLE, which I take to prevent HEARTBURN, also is related to fatigue especially if it blocks MAGNESIUM for long enough. DEPRESSION overlaps with fatigue, as does SLEEPINESS, to increase the complexity of the situation.
Many chronic LUNG, KIDNEY and LIVER diseases are associated with fatigue as a secondary concern. STAY HEALTHY!