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Finding May Explain Why Lupus Affects the Brain

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Nov. 1, 2001 -- Lupus is a mysterious disease with a wide range of medical problems, but researchers are slowly getting closer to understanding what causes some of the problems that damage the brain in lupus patients.

Doctors know that there are puzzling antibodies floating around in the blood of people with lupus, but medical research has not been able to pinpoint whether these antibodies are the true cause of the various symptoms.

But now, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have found that these rogue antibodies -- called "anti-DNA antibodies" -- do appear to contribute to damage to the brain.

The researchers found that lupus antibodies attach to a particular area on nerves. They believe that this kills the nerves and may cause nerve damage in the brain.

Lupus -- most commonly seen in young black or Asian women -- affects many parts of the body, depending on how severe it is. People with lupus can have any number of problems -- arthritis, rashes, kidney failure, and lung and heart damage. But in the brain, lupus can cause headaches, depression, seizures, or in the most severe cases, coma.

A better understanding of the underlying troubles in lupus will hopefully lead researchers to finding a treatment to block the damaging effects of these antibodies in the brain and in other parts of the body.

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