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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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September 2002

Q. I tested positive for lupus. I have joint pain, tremor in my left hand, left side weaker, chest pain, and low blood sugar. My doctor said I don't have lupus because I don't have a rash, but I do get a rash around my neck, chest, back and slightly on my face sometimes, however never when I see my doctor. Can you still have lupus and not have the butterfly rash? If you test positive can it be something else? Do you know of any alternative treatments for lupus?

A. Lupus, more formally known as systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE), is one of a group of auto immune diseases in which the immune cells of the body begin to attack and damage the body's own tissue. The cause for this is unknown. Diagnosis can be difficult as there is no single test for lupus, and even the "lupus antibody test" can be positive in people who are healthy, and negative in people who have lupus.

Genetics may play a role as there is often found to be more than one case among close relatives. Common symptoms at the beginning of the disease include fever, rash, weight loss, fatigue, and many other symptoms. Any organ system of the body can be affected including the joints, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

There is no cure for lupus but many medications are available to treat the manifestations of the illness. Often doctors in many different specialties are involved in treatment of the patient with lupus due to its wide ranging effects. The severity and course are unpredictable, often with periods in which the disease flares up, and periods in which the disease is relatively inactive. Doctors with experience in the treatment of lupus should direct patient care.



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