What is lupus, the autoimmune condition Kim Kardashian recently tested positive for?

Kim Kardashian is concerned she could be suffering from Lupus, after testing positive for the autoimmune condition.

The ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ star was left in tears in scenes this week as she tested positive for lupus as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Having found herself complaining of aching and swollen joints and fatigue, the reality star became concerned about her health.

At the time Kim was busy juggling her career and law studies, while also expecting her fourth child, son Psalm.

“Lately, my wrists have started to hurt again, but it’s definitely a different feeling than before. I feel this, like, in my bones,” she said.

After undergoing a blood test, Kardashian's doctor, Dr Daniel Wallace, called to tell her the results.

“Your antibodies are positive for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis,” he told the reality TV star.

However, the doctor also stated that she may not conclusively have the condition as it is possible to get false positives in the initial screenings.

Kim Kardashian recently tested positive for lupus [Photo: Getty]
Kim Kardashian recently tested positive for lupus [Photo: Getty]

He now wants Kim to get ultrasound scans on her hands and joints to determine what's really going on.

“I just am, like, freaking out. I have a baby on the way, I have law school. It just really can scare you when you start really thinking about how much this is gonna really change my life,” she said on hearing the news.

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What is lupus?

Lupus (more properly known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) is an autoimmune disease.

“That means that, the immune system, which is meant to fight infections, starts to attack the body's own tissues,” explains Dr Ed Vital, specialist lupus clinician and researcher at Leeds University.

“This results in white cells in the blood causing inflammation in different organs.”

According to Dr Adam Friedmann, Consultant Dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic lupus can affect the whole body (systemic lupus) or, far more commonly, just the skin.

“It is autoimmune in nature i.e. the body's immune system causes inflammation and damage in the skin and in systemic lupus, in the joints, muscles and other organs,” he explains.

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What are the symptoms of the condition?

Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, Medical Director UK Health Clinics, from Bupa UK says the most common symptoms associated with the condition are fatigue, swollen or painful joints and skin rashes or irritation, particularly, like Kim Kardashian, affecting the hands, wrist or face.

“Other less common symptoms include: fever, headaches or migraines, swollen glands, stomach pains, sensitivity to light causing skin rashes, unexplained weight loss and poor blood circulation in your fingers and toes,” he adds.

What causes it?

No one really knows why a person may suffer from it, but it is more common in women, and in people with a family history of auto-immune diseases.

“Although it’s not clear exactly what causes lupus, experts have agreed that there are multiple factors at play, including genetics,” explains Dr Thiyagarajan.

“It’s also thought that hormones can influence the development of lupus, as it’s most common in women that are of child bearing age,” he adds.

“Lupus isn’t contagious, so it can’t be passed from one person to another. The condition occurs when antibodies - which are usually part of the body’s natural defences - mistakenly attack healthy cells or organs.”

How is lupus treated?

According to Dr Vital once lupus has begun, as a rule it is a lifelong illness.

“Although some of the symptoms can be severe, fortunately treatments are getting better all the time. In most cases we are able to control the symptoms well with the right drugs,” he explains.

“Your doctor can test your blood for lupus and prescribe medications that can help manage the condition’s symptoms,” Dr Thiyagarajan adds.

“Anti-inflammatories or medicines that can help to supress your immune system are known to help lessen the day-to-day impact of lupus.”