Louise Thompson has revealed she’s been diagnosed with Lupus – a chronic autoimmune condition – in an emotional Instagram story.
The 32-year-old says her symptoms include feeling tired and “really, really intolerable joint pain”.
She revealed: “I had a call yesterday with one of the rheumatology guys and they got more of my blood test results back and the diagnosis is that I’ve got drug-induced lupus. So I’m suffering from that, which is fabulous.”
Thompson, who rose to fame on E4’s Made In Chelsea, has also been battling with mental health problems and PTSD since the birth of her son Leo almost a year ago.
“I feel like I’m constantly navigating so many different things and I could just cry, it all just feels so heavy.” she tells her fans.
“I was just on the bus going to one appointment this morning and when I stood up and started walking to the appointment, my knees were in such agony. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.
“I’ve always been so able bodied and so active, exercise has been such a big part of my life and it’s just so rough having to adapt to all of these new medical conditions, so that’s been really tough.”
What is lupus?
Lupus is a complicated condition and there are several different types that can trigger different sets of symptoms. “The most common form of lupus is called systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE,” explains Dr Sarah Brewer, an independent medical nutritionist (drsarahbrewer.com).
SLE is an autoimmune condition, which means it happens because the body’s immune system has mistaken normal/healthy tissue as a threat and started attacking it.
“SLE can cause inflammation and damage that can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs and blood vessels.”
SLE isn’t contagious and can’t be passed from one person to another. There’s still a degree of confusion over why some people develop autoimmune diseases, but many scientists believe it develops as a response to a combination of important factors.
Because nine of every 10 occurrences of lupus are in women, researchers have looked at the relationship between estrogen and lupus, believing that hormones may play a part. Genetics are believed to be linked too – for example, you’re more likely to develop lupus if you have a family history of the condition.
What are the symptoms?
Diagnosing lupus is often difficult and delayed. Up to 50,000 people in the UK are thought to have the condition – but, according to research from Lupus UK, on average, it takes seven years from the onset of symptoms for a person to get diagnosed on average.
Lack of awareness is part of the problem, and the symptoms can also be vague and develop gradually over time, and overlap with many other conditions. However, there are a few tell-tale warning signs to be aware of, including extreme ongoing fatigue, painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, and skin rashes.
“People with lupus can have many different symptoms,” explains Brewer. “A characteristic rash may appear across the nose and cheeks, resembling a butterfly in shape. Rashes can also appear on the ears, arms, shoulders, chest and the palms of the hands.”
Visible changes, such as swelling or rashes, reflect the widespread inflammation of blood vessels occurring throughout the body, but there are further symptoms that you can look out for too.
“Chest pain, hair loss, dry mouth and eyes, mouth ulcers and a rash after exposure to sunlight are some of the less obvious symptoms of lupus,” she adds. “Be aware of swollen glands, difficulty swallowing, headaches, dizziness and kidney problems too. Raynaud’s phenomenon, in which fingers turn white, blue and then red on exposure to cold temperatures, is also common.”
Diagnoses and treatment
Getting diagnosed will usually involve a combination of blood tests and a referral to a specialist, who will look at both test results and the symptom patterns.
While there’s no cure for SLE, doctors can prescribe medications that can help manage the day-to-day symptoms – these are usually anti-inflammatory drugs, or medicines that suppress your immune system. However, some people with mild symptoms do not require treatment, while others (such as those with kidney complications) may require more serious medical action.
Lifestyle changes can be part of managing lupus too, such as eating well, keeping stress levels in check and getting plenty of rest. By following experts’ advice, many people are able to manage the condition well, although lupus can be unpredictable, so patients are encouraged to make periodic visits with a rheumatologist to keep things in check.