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The Anatomy Of Lupus

Hi there, I will try to be of some help if I can.
The answer to the question I get most,
which is about imflamation and swelling,
is found in the very cells of your body,
specifically the cells of your immune system.
I will start with a look at the healthy immune system
and how it goes awry with lupus.

The immune system is the body's defense team so to speak.
It's a network of cells that guard the body against
an outside world of potential enemies, such
as bacteria, parasites, viruses, fungi.

The wonder to me
of the immune system is its ability to
distinguish the "self" from the "nonself"--substances
that rightly belong to the body from those that
don't. Almost every cell in the body is marked
by a molecule that signals "self".
This includes cells from every body system
--the heart, lung, blood, tissues, et cetera.
The healthy immune system knows to leave
these marked cells alone.
But anything that isn't a "self" molecule-carrying
member of the body catches the attention of the
defense team and triggers and immune response.
The "nonself" proteins that trigger an immune
response are known as antigens.
That word literally means "against a species".

Stationed throughout the body are organs that breed
and nurture the varied members of the immune
system's defense team.
They are known as lymphoid organs,
They include--
The tonsils and adenoids
The lymph nodes
The thymus
The spleen
Peyer's patches
The appendix
The bone marrow
The lymphatic vessels

Like all cells, the immune system's defense team
is born in the bone marrow.
Some of these cells grow up to become lymphocytes,
while others become phagocytes.
Immune cells then travel to the immune organs,
where they wait for signals to launch
an attack against any intruder.

Also called lymph cells, lymphocytes are small
white blood cells that carry out much of the
immune defense. There are three types: B cells, T cells
and natural killer cells.
(I can go into more detail about each one if you wish).

Phagocytes-These are large white cells which,
true to their name, eat ("phago")
cells ("cytes") and digest them. Or they trap
the antigen and hand it over to B cells or T cells.
This group of cell-eaters includes monocytes,
macropghages, and Granulocytes.
(I can also go into more detail here if you wish).

The COMPLEMENT system is a group of
more than twenty proteins which in their
effort to control infection contribute to inflammation.
The linking of antibody to antigen stimulates
a chain reaction of complement. At the end of this
chain is a membrane attack complex--a kind of sword
that punctures the target antigen, causing
it to explode. In people with lupus, levels of
complement are lower than normal, either because
of the high level of inflammation or because
of a disease-related problem in producing it.

Inflammation--In inflammation, complement signals
blood vessels to open up wider, ushering
in more blood--and defenses-to fight off
the antigen. This is what causes the redness of inflammation
around an infected area. The macrophages,
called to the batttle site by T cells, release
toxic substances that help them digest immune complexes.
(While these substances often help in defense,
they can also spill out into healthy tissue and
start mistakenly eating away at it, as though it were
antigen.) Complement also makes the vessels leaky,
allowing white cells to pour into tissue. This is what
causes the swelling and tenderness of inflammation.

Once the offending antigen is under control,
T cells call a halt to the immune reaction.
Ending the immune response is just as important as starting it.
If the T cells don't signal an end to immune activity,
the inflammatory process will continue uncontrolled.
With Lupus this overzealous immune reaction
can cause direct harm to your body.
I can go into how this team works together
if you wish, just email me.

The Lupus system, like the allergic immune system,
suffers from a serious case of myopia.
It mistakes the self for nonself. As a result,
the immune system attacks the very being it's meant
to protect: the self. To put it another way,
the body acts as though it were suddenly allergic
to its own blood. The body's own cells,
tissues and organs become the innocent targets of
antibodies (or autoantibodies, because they are
directed against the self.) Instead of attacking
alien substances, the misguided autoantibodies target
healthy cells, cell components and tissue.
They react against the fundamental structure
of cells--the nuclei(core) of cells and
part of the cell walls(phospholipids).

In people with Lupus, the immune system falters
on several other levels: the B cells are hypercharged
and the team of suppressor T cells is understaffed.
As a result, not only does the immune system
attack the wrong target (cells from its own body),
but the immune response gets out of control.

Another major problem is that the
antibody-antigen complex, normally swept out
of the bloodstream my macrophages,
cannot be removed. It lingers and
accumulates on tissues. Remember--the complexes
activate complement,
which ends in inflammation.
In Lupus, these immune complexes cause
inflammation wherever they settle.

I can address the meds and treatment for Lupus
if anyone wants or needs that information, please email me.
I can also address the Depression and coping with Lupus if you wish.




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