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red blood cells

Symptoms of Lupus

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Millions of people suffer with the autoimmune disease known as Lupus. This chronic inflammatory disease affects a person’s immune system. Rather than fighting to protect your body from viruses and bacteria, the immune system actually attacks various organs and tissues. Since, Lupus can affect different parts of the body, its symptoms vary greatly from person to person. The intensity of these symptoms also varies greatly, but most people experience flares, which will worsen and improve randomly.

Below is a look at some of the main symptoms of Lupus.

  • Anemia – Characterized by lower than normal levels of red blood cells in the body’s blood.
  • Chest Pain – Chest pain that occurs when taking a deep breathe. This can be caused by an inflammation of the pleura membrane that surrounds the lungs, also referred to as Pleurisy.
  • Dry or Swollen Eyes – Lupus can cause dry eyes or even swelling and pain in the area surrounding the eyes.
  • Fatigue – Lupus oftentimes causes extreme fatigue that is typically more severe during and immediately after a flare.
  • Fever – Many patients experience unexplainable fevers.
  • Hair Loss – Depending on which organs and tissues are affected, Lupus may cause hair loss.
  • Headaches – Many Lupus patient complain of severe headaches, which may be accompanied by confusion or even memory loss.
  • Joint Pain – Lupus can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of joints in the areas affected by the disease,
  • Photosensitivity – Some Lupus patients also experience a sensitivity to the sun and the light. In these cases, it is best to avoid direct sunlight when possible.
  • Rash – Many Lupus patients, but not all, experience a distinguishable rash on their face. This rash typically takes on a butterfly shape and spreads from the bridge of the nose outwards over both cheeks.
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon – This phenomenon causes a person’s fingers and/or toes to turn a whitish or bluish color when subjected to intense stress or extreme colds.
  • Shortness of Breath – In addition to chest pain, Lupus patients may experience periods of shortness of breath.
  • Skin Lesions – These types of lesions are most common among those whose Lupus affects their skin. Overexposure to direct sunlight should be avoided because this can worsen the lesions.
  • Swelling – Lupus patients commonly show signs of swelling in their feet and legs.
  • Unusual Blood Clotting – When Lupus affect the blood cells, a person may experience unusual blood clotting.
  • Ulcers – Some people with Lupus also experience frequent ulcers in the nose and/or mouth.

Lupus is sometime referred to as “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms are very similar to several other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and fibromyalgia. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss these concerns.

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Understanding Sickle Cell Disease

Microscopic view of sicke cells causing anemia disease.

There are many kinds of diseases that are associated with blood. Some are contagious diseases. Others are developed within the body because of lifestyle or unhealthy habits. On the other hand, there are also such diseases that are inherited, and one of these diseases is sickle cell.

What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease, or SCD, is a red blood cell disorder that is passed on from parents to children. This red blood cell is identified as sickle hemoglobin or hemoglobin S. There are many people with abnormal hemoglobin such as hemoglobin S, but the most common type of SCD is hemoglobin SS or sickle-cell anemia.

Overview

Our body tissues require oxygen, and this is being supplied by our hemoglobin or red blood cells throughout our body. Since hemoglobin has a round shape, it becomes flexible enough to easily flow through blood vessels. It’s soft and elastic, so it can fit freely flow along with other red blood cells.

Meanwhile, sickle cell has a sickle shape similar with that of a leech. Inside the sickle cell, there are strands that form such a shape, and these stands are hard. As a result, sickle cells don’t easily flow through blood vessels. Instead, they stick to the wall and block the blood vessel. Because of this, the supply of oxygen to our tissues are slowed down or even blocked completely.

When your body tissues don’t have enough supply of oxygen, you may suffer from severe pain crises. Such pain comes without early signs or warning, and this usually ends up being sent to the hospital for immediate treatment. In some cases, it can also harm or damage organs such as lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, and liver.

Causes

SCD is only inherited from a parent as it’s not contagious nor developed overtime. Nevertheless, the probability of inheriting sickle cell disease is low because even if your parent has SCD doesn’t necessarily mean you have also inherited it. There are factors that affect the transfer of SCD such as another parent’s condition. This means that both parents should have SCD in order to pass it on to their children. If only one of the parents has SCD, the disease will not be passed down.

Symptoms

There are different symptoms of sickle cell disease, and they vary from one patient to another depending on health condition. Nonetheless, these are some common symptoms you should observe:

  • Eye Problems
  • Slow Growth
  • Infections
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Swelling takes place in hands and feet; however, chronic pain is usually experienced by young adults who have SCD. If not managed properly, it may lead to bone damage and ulcers. Meanwhile, vision problems happen when eyes have the lack the supply of blood as a result of sickle cell blockage.

When You Should See a Doctor

Symptoms may be a false sign or just a sign of another different disease. It’s difficult to predict until you see a doctor. Visit a doctor if you see and experience the following signs:

  • Yellow Skin
  • Frequent Fever
  • Abnormal Swelling
  • Episodes of Pain

Treatment

The only cure for SCD is stem-cell transplant or bone marrow transplant. However, it has a lot of challenges to do so. Aside from the fact that it is difficult to find a donor, only those who are16 years old or below are able to undergo such an operation. Moreover, the operation is risky, and it sometimes leads to death. Nevertheless, antibiotics are administered to cure the crises or pain.

 

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Understanding Sickle cell

Microscopic view of sicke cells causing anemia disease.

Image is from guardian.ng

There are many kinds of diseases that are associated with blood. Some are contagious diseases. Others are developed within the body because of lifestyle or unhealthy habits. On the other hand, there are also such diseases that are inherited, and one of these diseases is sickle cell.

What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease or SCD is a red blood cell disorder that is passed on from parents to children. This red blood cell is identified as sickle hemoglobin or hemoglobin S. There are many people with abnormal hemoglobin such as hemoglobin S, but the most common type of SCD is hemoglobin SS or sickle-cell anemia.

Overview

Our body tissues require oxygen, and this is being supplied by our hemoglobin or red blood cells throughout our body. Since hemoglobin has a round shape, it becomes flexible enough to easily flow through blood vessels. It’s soft and elastic, so it can fit freely flow along with other red blood cells.

Meanwhile, sickle cell has a sickle shape similar with that of a leech. Inside the sickle cell, there are strands that form such a shape, and these stands are hard. As a result, sickle cells don’t easily flow through blood vessels. Instead, they stick to the wall and block the blood vessel. Because of this, the supply of oxygen to our tissues are slowed down or even blocked completely.

When your body tissues don’t have enough supply of oxygen, you may suffer from severe pain crises. Such pain comes without early signs or warning, and this usually ends up being sent to the hospital for immediate treatment. In some cases, it can also harm or damage organs such as lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, and liver.

Causes

SCD is only inherited from a parent as it’s not contagious nor developed overtime. Nevertheless, the probability of inheriting sickle cell disease is low because even if your parent has SCD doesn’t necessarily mean you have also inherited it. There are factors that affect the transfer of SCD such as another parent’s condition. This means that both parents should have SCD in order to pass it on to their children. If only one of the parents has SCD, the disease will not be passed down.

Symptoms

There are different symptoms of sickle cell disease, and they vary from one patient to another depending on health condition. Nonetheless, these are some common symptoms you should observe:

  • Eye Problems
  • Slow Growth
  • Infections
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Swelling takes place in hands and feet; however, chronic pain is usually experienced by young adults who have SCD. If not managed properly, it may lead to bone damage and ulcers. Meanwhile, vision problems happen when eyes have the lack the supply of blood as a result of sickle cell blockage.

When You Should See a Doctor

Symptoms may be a false sign or just a sign of another different disease. It’s difficult to predict until you see a doctor. Visit a doctor if you see and experience the following signs:

  • Yellow Skin
  • Frequent Fever
  • Abnormal Swelling
  • Episodes of Pain

Treatment

The only cure for SCD is stem-cell transplant or bone marrow transplant. However, it has a lot of challenges to do so. Aside from the fact that it is difficult to find a donor, only those who are16 years old or below are able to undergo such an operation. Moreover, the operation is risky, and it sometimes leads to death. Nevertheless, antibiotics are administered to cure the crises or pain.

 

 

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World Sickle Cell Day

sickle-cell-anemia-e1424423793954

Image is from TheHealthSite.com

World Sickle Cell Day is acknowledged on June 19th each year to bring awareness to this widespread blood disorder. Sickle Cell Disease is the most frequent genetic disease worldwide and is present on four continents. The United Nations estimates that over 500,000 people are born with this condition each year and that 50% of those affected could die before the age of 5.

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle Cell Disease is a red blood cell disease that is inherited, meaning it is not contagious but a genetic event that people are born with. The affected red blood cells contain mostly hemoglobin S, considered an abnormal type of hemoglobin.

This abnormality causes many of the cells to form an abnormal sickle, or crescent-like, shape. Abnormally shaped blood cells are not able to travel the body as typical round cells, getting stuck or slowing down blood flow to affected areas, and causing further problems.

In addition to affecting blood flow, these crescent-shaped cells are also less hearty than traditional blood cells and are destroyed faster within the body. Patients frequent suffer from anemia, gallstones, and jaundice. Serious illness can be caused by limited blood flow to the lungs and limbs, including stroke and organ damage. Patients are also highly susceptible to bacteria and infection.

How is Sickle Cell Treated?

There is no universal cure for Sickle Cell Disease. Affected patients are divided into three primary groups including Sickle Cell Anemia, Sickle-Hemoglobin C Disease, and Sickle Beta Thalassemia. Treatments for each disease subgroup will vary.

Treatment of symptoms is common, using antibiotics for infection, blood transfusion for blood clots, and medication for pain. Frequent blood transfusion can cause their own problems too, increasing iron in the blood too much, so this is not an ideal solution. Current treatments focus on maintaining patient overall health, and treating symptoms as they arise.

Droxia, the manufacturer name for a drug called hydroxyurea, has been used with some success since FDA approval in 1998, but further research and treatment is still needed.

How Can I find out more about World Sickle Cell Day?

This specific day of awareness was created by a United Nations resolution and features worldwide activities, many of which can be found on the World Sickle Cell Day’s Facebook page.

While different areas may have additional Sickle Cell Awareness events, including Sickle Cell Awareness month in the United States, June 19th represents the united global event. World Sickle Cell Day online provides many resources about this global awareness event including history, the text of the United Nations resolution and involved organizations, and event listing of years past.

Contact these groups to join Sickle Cell awareness and fundraising events in your area.

 

 

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Lupus Symptoms

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Image is from Lupus Foundation of America

Millions of people suffer with the autoimmune disease known as Lupus. This chronic inflammatory disease affects a person’s immune system. Rather than fighting to protect your body from viruses and bacteria, the immune system actually attacks various organs and tissues. Since, Lupus can affect different parts of the body, its symptoms vary greatly from person to person. The intensity of these symptoms also varies greatly, but most people experience flares, which will worsen and improve randomly.

Below is a look at some of the main symptoms of Lupus.

  • Anemia – Characterized by lower than normal levels of red blood cells in the body’s blood.
  • Chest Pain – Chest pain that occurs when taking a deep breathe. This can be caused by an inflammation of the pleura membrane that surrounds the lungs, also referred to as Pleurisy.
  • Dry or Swollen Eyes – Lupus can cause dry eyes or even swelling and pain in the area surrounding the eyes.
  • Fatigue – Lupus oftentimes causes extreme fatigue that is typically more severe during and immediately after a flare.
  • Fever – Many patients experience unexplainable fevers.
  • Hair Loss – Depending on which organs and tissues are affected, Lupus may cause hair loss.
  • Headaches – Many Lupus patient complain of severe headaches, which may be accompanied by confusion or even memory loss.
  • Joint Pain – Lupus can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness of joints in the areas affected by the disease,
  • Photosensitivity – Some Lupus patients also experience a sensitivity to the sun and the light. In these cases, it is best to avoid direct sunlight when possible.
  • Rash – Many Lupus patients, but not all, experience a distinguishable rash on their face. This rash typically takes on a butterfly shape and spreads from the bridge of the nose outwards over both cheeks.
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon – This phenomenon causes a person’s fingers and/or toes to turn a whitish or bluish color when subjected to intense stress or extreme colds.
  • Shortness of Breath – In addition to chest pain, Lupus patients may experience periods of shortness of breath.
  • Skin Lesions – These types of lesions are most common among those whose Lupus affects their skin. Overexposure to direct sunlight should be avoided because this can worsen the lesions.
  • Swelling – Lupus patients commonly show signs of swelling in their feet and legs.
  • Unusual Blood Clotting – When Lupus affect the blood cells, a person may experience unusual blood clotting.
  • Ulcers – Some people with Lupus also experience frequent ulcers in the nose and/or mouth.

Lupus is sometime referred to as “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms are very similar to several other medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and fibromyalgia. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss these concerns.

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Understanding Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy_Infographic

Image is from Cancer Research Catalyst – American Association for Cancer Research

Immunotherapy also known as biologic therapy is a type of treatment that induces or enhances the body’s immune system instead of using medicines. This process is usually done to treat cancer by stimulating the immune system to become more active in attacking cancer cells or by sustaining the body with man-made immune system proteins.

How Does the Immune System Work?

The immune system is the sum of all components that work together to maintain the normal functions of body organs. These components include but not limited to white blood cells, nutrients, and organ functions.

When the surface of skin is wounded, white blood cells work to heal the wound by eliminating foreign substances. When the wound is larger, it requires a lot of white blood cells to cover the wounded area. This will result in the appearance of lymph nodes near the area. This is where white blood cells build up.

In the process of eliminating foreign substances such as bacteria, germs, and cancer cells, body nutrients such as vitamin C may work to repair the damaged tissues and collagen.

Meanwhile, body organs work together to prevent disease-causing agents to stay inside the body. Kidney works to filter toxins, which are excreted through the urine. Digestive system separate important substances needed by the body from waste. The heart continues to pump blood to carry white blood cells and red blood cells needed to heal wounds.

These are some examples of how the immune system work. The immune system is not a single substance nor a single organ. It is an integration of several body systems that work together to protect the body from certain diseases.

The Immune System as Treatment for Cancer

There still no single medicine that can cure cancer. So far, an effective way to suppress the spread of cancer cells is through the immune system. The immune system serves as the police inside the body. It detects unwanted substances that may infect any area of the body.

However, cancer cells are not detected by the immune system as they appear to be like normal cells by of sending signals to the PD-1 CTLA-4 receptors. These signals confuse the immune system. This is why even a healthy body with strong immune system cannot prevent cancer.

Nonetheless, there is a way to make cancer cells detected by the immune system. The use of immunotherapy drugs such as inhibitors can disrupt the signals that are sent by cancer cells. This will let the cancer cells exposed to the immune system. Cytokines and cancer vaccines are examples of these inhibitors.

Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made immune system proteins. These proteins attach to cancer cells thereby flagging the cancer cells to be recognized by the immune system. On the other hand, monoclonal antibodies work to block the abnormal proteins in cancer cells, so they can also be used to prevent cancer cells from spreading.

These are examples of man-made antibodies:

  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo)
  • Ipilimumab (Yervoy)

Non-Specific Immunotherapies

Non-specific immunotherapies are used to boost the immune system to directly stop and kill cancer cells. Examples of these are interferons and interleukin’s.

Conclusion

The use of the immune system is still the most recommended method in the treatment of cancer. It only needs the help of inhibitors to let it work properly on the target. The problem with the immune system is that it is not intelligent enough to keep cancer cells from being hidden. This is why there is still a need for human intervention with the help of man-made antibodies.

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