Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is a chronic autoimmune disease causing inflammation and pain in the joints, kidneys, skin, blood cells, brain, lungs and heart. Symptoms can be debilitating, although most people will experience mild symptoms interspersed with flare-ups in which the disease periodically worsens. There is no cure for lupus. Medications can be used to treat lupus, although they are of varying efficacy. Some of the medications used to treat lupus include antimalarial drugs, immunosuppressant drugs, corticosteroids and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil. If you buy Advil online, you can make managing your lupus symptoms easier. Treatment strategies for lupus patients could soon become more effective, due to a new discovery that could help doctors develop individualized treatments for lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham have identified a new immune protein that could be responsible for lupus flare-ups in about 15 percent of the population.
Study Sheds Light on the Role of Immune Proteins in Flare-Ups
The new immune protein that has researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham so excited is a new form of Fc receptor. Fc receptors regulate the body’s production of antibodies. Prior to the results of this study, scientists believed Fc receptors were only capable of stopping antibody production. Now it’s known that about 15 percent of the population possesses a different type of Fc receptor, one that can stimulate antibody production. In lupus patients, this type of Fc receptor could be implicated in symptom flare-ups, because it would be responsible for creating the excessive amounts of antibodies that cause lupus sufferers’ immune systems to turn against them and attack their healthy tissues. People with this unusual Fc receptor variant are more likely to get lupus, although it is not the only factor contributing to the disease. Researchers suspect the excessive immune activity that accompanies the newly discovered Fc receptor variant could hold answers for the treatment of lupus symptoms in those same people.
Lupus Treatment Could Soon Become More Personalized
If doctors can develop a screening technique that could identify antibody-producing Fc receptors in lupus patients, it could have a dramatic impact on the way they choose to treat the disease in these patients. The medications used to treat lupus — drugs like hydroxychloroquine, immune suppressants like cyclophosphamide, and corticosteroids — are of varying efficacy because their effectiveness is determined by the makeup of the individual patient’s immune system. But this discovery could lead to the development of more personalized treatments.
If you currently buy cyclophosphamide or similar drugs to treat lupus, you could soon find yourself buying new medications that have been developed to target your specific Fc receptor variant. In the near future, pharmaceutical companies could be designing medications for lupus and other autoimmune disorders targeted to treat patients with specific genetic mutations of all kinds. Treatment could, as a result, become much faster and more efficient; pharmaceutical development could take less time and cost less money, and the treatments themselves could cost less for patients.
This discovery could also make the lupus treatments we’re already using more effective. About a third of lupus patients don’t respond at all to treatments. New therapies that work by decreasing the activity of B cells, which are responsible for creating antibodies, may work in some patients that don’t respond to older drugs and therapies, but they won’t work in lupus patients who have the newly discovered Fc receptor type. A screening test could help doctors decide which of the lupus treatments currently in use is best for a patient, based on the type of Fc receptors that patient has. The potential to streamline treatment and bring relief to lupus patients more quickly is already there.
In the meantime, people with lupus can take steps to cope with their symptoms when medication alone isn’t adequate. Exposure to sunlight can trigger lupus flare-ups, so it’s important to wear sun-protective clothing like long sleeves, hats and long pants along with high-SPF sunscreens outside. Plenty of rest is also advisable, since people with lupus and other autoimmune diseases often struggle with fatigue. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are as important for people with lupus as they are for anyone else. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help people with lupus to mitigate the symptoms of the disease.
The discovery of a new form of immune protein could soon lead to new screening tests for genetic immune variations in lupus patients. As a result, more personalized, targeted treatment approaches could soon become a reality. For people living with lupus, the possibility of improved treatments can only be good news.