Lupus: When your immune system attacks you

by Rose Carmelle Lacuata,

Posted at Mar 11 2014 01:59 AM | Updated as of Mar 11 2014 07:32 PM

MANILA -- Lupus is an uncommon disease that attacks a person's immune system.

In an interview on radio dzMM's "Magandang Gabi Dok," Dr. Michael Salvador, a rheumatologist, explains what lupus is and how it can be controlled.

An autoimmune disease, systemic lupus erythematosus causes a person's immune system to fight against itself.

"Iyung sarili mong immune system na dapat kumakalaban sa virus, sa sakit, kinakalaban ang sarili mong katawan," he said.

Some of the common symptoms of lupus are rashes that appear on the face and body, falling hair, fever, and mouth sores.

Lupus also causes chronic inflammation in the organs such as the kidneys, lungs, the heart, and even the brain.

"Systemic disease siya, so ibig sabihin lahat ng organs maaring maapektuhan."

According to Salvador, lupus affects women from 15 to 35 years old, with 29 as the most common age.

How it can be detected

The problem with most patients, said Salvador, is that they disregard the symptoms, leading to the late detection of the disease.

"Madalas hindi agad nade-detect. Akala nila rashes lang, fever lang, iyun pala lupus na."

Patients have to undergo a blood test and a urinalysis for the disease to be detected.

In some cases when symptoms are overt, doctors can easily detect the disease.

"Kapag may 'butterfly' rash, o rash na mukhang butterfly sa may mukha, sumasakit ang joints. Tinitingnan din natin kung may singaw sa bibig, symptom ng lupus yun."

However, if internal organs are affected, symptoms may not be physically manifested on the skin.

Salvador added that the cause of the disease remains unknown.

"Marami nang research, maraming studies. May mga findings na maaring genetic ang lupus, maari ding caused by environmental factors like ulraviolet (UV) light, smoking."

There are times that lupus is detected later on in the patient's life, but there are also children aged four or five who have the disease.

There are some factors that trigger the disease, such as exposure to sunlight, viral infections such as colds and flu, as well as stress.

Salvador said symptoms vary from one patient to another and no two lupus patients are alike.


Salvador explained that the treatment of lupus depends on the organ severely affected.

"Depende rin kung anong organs ang naapektuhan, doon nakabase ang treatment."

Patients are given high-dose steroids and immunosuppresants.

However, as steroids have many side effects, Salvador explained that they avoid putting a patient on steroids for a prolonged period.

"Kapag mas active ang sakit, mas mataas ang dosage ng steroids. Kapag na-control na ang sakit, binababaan na namin ang dosage."

"Sometimes, the disease activity is so low na hindi na kailangan ng steroids," he added.

Unfortunately, most lupus patients would have to take medication for life.

Salvador reminded people not to be depressed once they are diagnosed with lupus, as the disease has a 90% survival rate.


There are a lot of myths about lupus, and Salvador clarified that although lupus is a serious disease, it is not very deadly.

It is also different from cancer. It is not contagious as well.