He systemic lupus erythematosus It is a chronic auntoimmune disease, a type of pathology that is produced by a disorder in our defense system, in such a way that antibodies attack tissues and organs. How does lupus affect children and adolescents?
Remember that the immune system defends our body from foreign agents (antigens), such as viruses or bacteria, that can attack it, but in this case, it attacks the body itself and produces a very painful inflammatory reaction, for those who suffer from this disease.
He lupus patient It has an increased production of antibodies, known as autoantibodies, which are those that attack the healthy body itself, generating a series of signs and symptoms that make the diagnosis of this disease difficult.
All people, regardless of age, race, gender or ethnic group, can suffer from this disease, but certain groups can be more susceptible:
- Women of childbearing age, between 15 and 40 years.
- African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Islander people. The prevalence is 4 to 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
- Children of lupus patients are 10% more likely to suffer from it.
The susceptibility of man is much lower, but nevertheless they can suffer from the disease. Despite the fact that lupus is not a disease typical of children, especially in children under 5 years of age, more children and adolescents can suffer from it, than you might think.
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates 10,000 children with lupus in the United States and 3,000 in Argentina. In Spain, the Institut Ferran de Barcelona (IFB) has estimated 1,000 cases of children with lupus, with a higher incidence than childhood leukemia (2016).
Lupus at this stage of life is a serious disease, since the commitment is multi-organ and not only affects their physical health but also psychological, since they stop doing many activities of their age and are often bullied by from their classmates, bringing all this, even negative repercussions on the family, which is also affected.
The causes of this disease actually remain unknown completely, but if it has been proven that different genetic, hormonal and environmental factors influence the origin of this disease. On many occasions, lupus has been confused with other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Currently the origin of this disease is unknown and it is even often confused with other ailments such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Children with lupus have very different symptoms, to the point that no two cases are the same. The most frequent symptoms are considered muscle and joint pain and extreme fatigue, according to the Spanish Lupus Federation (FELUPUS). Other common signs are kidney problems, stomach aches, mouth sores, erythema on the cheeks, and weight and hair loss.
Other symptoms that may be found are lesions in the mouth (ulcers), red cheeks (erythema), weight loss, hair loss, stomach aches, kidney and central nervous system lesions and serositis, which is an inflammation of the membranes that lining the heart and lungs.
Although this disease is chronic, there are periods of remission in which sick children will not present any symptoms. Care must be taken when crisis or relapses, the reactivation of the pathology, since it can affect various organs and requires to be controlled by a specialist.
Among the symptoms there are some very suggestive of lupus, which help us to diagnose this disease, such as malar erythema (pink rash), at the level of the cheeks and nose and discoid erythema, very well defined, scaly and that can leave scar.
And as for blood chemistry we can observe in hematology a decrease in red blood cells (anemia), leukocytes (leukopenia) and platelets (platelet penia), which, together with the characteristic symptoms, guides us to think about this sickness.
He treatment in children and adolescents is very similar to that of adults. There is no cure, but it can be controlled and will be evaluated by a multidisciplinary group of specialist doctors: pediatricians, rheumatologists, immunologists, nephrologists, psychiatrists.
IFR experts advise, in the first place, to avoid factors that favor the appearance of a crisis, such as diets rich in salt or exposure to the sun. As for the medication, it will depend on each case, but generally they are used:
- The corticosteroids are the drugs used to counteract lupus attacks, although if kidney damage occurs, immunosuppressants are also given.
- The administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be indicated.
Chronic and irregular illnesses like lupus are difficult for parents of sick children to manage. For this reason, it is important to try to explain to children the importance of maintaining medication and medical monitoring, always with a lot of patience, affection and understanding.
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