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What is Lupus?

Good health

Recently, whilst watching Channel Nine’s The Voice, you may have noticed the distinctive scarring on Seal’s face. Contrary to popular belief these were not caused by being kissed by a rose, nor his time as an architect, but rather by a serious medical condition called lupus.

Lupus, Latin for wolf, is an autoimmune condition that attacks the body’s connective tissue. The disease is broadly characterised into two categories; systemic and discoid. Seal is afflicted with discoid lupus erythema which solely attacks the head and neck. However, the more common and more serious form is systemic lupus erythema (SLE).

Symptoms of SLE

As the name suggests, systemic lupus erythema causes redness and  inflammation to the entire body. This inflammation is a result of the attack of the immune cells against the connective tissue of the major organs. Despite this, the symptoms of SLE are usually vague and mimic that of other conditions. The most superficial symptom is the degradation of the connective tissue of the bodies largest organ; the skin. The chronic immunological attack leads to the development of scar tissue. However the most common presentation of SLE is as a result of joint pain. The degradation of the connective tissue of the knees and hips lead to pain in SLE sufferers. Furthermore, SLE can result in hair loss, sun sensitivity, muscle pain, arthritis, kidney failure, heart disease, and anaemia.

Cause of lupus

Like most autoimmune conditions, the underlying cause of lupus is still relatively unknown. It is believed that there is an underlying genetic basis as SLE has been shown to run in family. There is also believed to be an environment influence. Onset of lupus has been linked to both viral and bacterial infection, however the exact causative component is yet to be conclusively discovered.

Treatment Options

To date, there is no known cure of lupus. However, there are many treatment options to prevent the exacerbation of the detrimental symptoms. The mainstay treatment is anti-inflammatory drugs and  immunosuppression. The reduction in the immune and inflammatory response reduces the degradation of the tissue and therefore lessens the presentation of symptoms. In addition to medicinal management, lifestyle changes such as reduced exposure to sunlight can also be beneficial in reduction of symptoms. With well controlled treatment, those with SLE can lead relative normal and healthy lives with little side effects.

What now for Seal?

Fortunately for Seal, as he is afflicted with only discoid lupus and not SLE, his outlook is good. Discoid lupus, in contrast to SLE, does not affect most of the major organs and is largely restricted to the head and neck. Only 5% of those with discoid lupus transition to SLE. Therefore, with good medical control, Seal can go on inspiring a generation of amazingly singers.