What comes to mind when you hear the word lupus? Do you know whether it’s a serious condition or not? Have you heard if there is a cure for it? Maybe you wonder if kids can get it too, or it’s just an adult’s disease?
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder— meaning instead of the body’s immune system attacking foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria— it attacks its own cells and tissues.
There are several different types of lupus, with the most common being Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE, which can cause damage to organs like the liver, brain, kidney, and heart.
And yes, it does affect children and teenagers. We treat lupus and other pediatric inflammatory conditions all the time here at Pediatric Rheumatology Consultants.
How many kids are affected by lupus?
There are between 5,000 to 10,000 children and teenagers in the United States currently diagnosed with lupus. Among this group, SLE is reported to be the most common form.
Lupus generally tends to affect girls more often than boys and is not typically developed until after about ten years old.
Although there is no known cause of lupus, it can sometimes be attributed to genetics or environmental triggers such as stress, an infection, or an adverse reaction to certain medications.
What are lupus symptoms?
Lupus symptoms are not unlike many other pediatric illnesses, which is why it can be tricky to diagnose. If your child experiences any of the following for an extended period of time, talk to your pediatrician. They may direct you to a pediatric rheumatologist for a formal diagnosis:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Arthritis or joint pain
- Mouth sores or sores in the nose
- Rashes, especially on the cheeks
If these symptoms persist for a long time without attention, and lupus is the underlying cause, there can be severe damage suffered to a child’s delicate internal organs.
Board-certified pediatric rheumatologist Dr. Ruy Carrasco explains that while there is currently no cure for lupus there are many successful treatments available to help your child live a happy, normal, and active life.
How is lupus treated?
Our pediatric rheumatology team will likely recommend a combination of medications to manage symptoms and prevent inflammation as well as healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a balanced diet, minimizing stress, and getting enough physical activity.
In addition to caring for your child’s physical health, Dr. Carrasco says it’s also important to check on their mental health too. Living with a chronic condition can lead to anxiety and depression, so check in often with them to ensure they are feeling happy, loved, and successful in their daily lives. Consider enlisting a trusted friend, older sibling, teacher, coach or licensed therapist to visit with them occasionally, too.
Pediatric Rheumatology Consultants treat a wide range of autoimmune disorders and diseases of the musculoskeletal system in children and teenagers. For more information or to schedule an appointment with us, please visit PediRheumTX.com.