Lupus vs. ALS

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Difference between Lupus and ALS

According to statistics provided by The Lupus Foundation of America, 1.5 million Americans suffer from a type of lupus. Worldwide there are at least 5 million people with the same diagnosis. In 20% of the cases where a direct family member has the lupus disease, the next generation will suffer from lupus as well at some point between the ages of 15 and 44.

People diagnosed with the ALS disease survive for more than 3 years in 50% of the cases. This may be prolonged by a new drug called Riluzole which has been tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, is a chronic disease where the immune system attacks the body’s cells and tissues. It can affect the heart, the skin, the lungs, the kidneys, the blood and the nervous system. Periods of illness known as flares alternate with periods of symptom absence called remissions. The disease shows in greater incidences for women.

ALS is the abbreviation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease. This leads to a loss of control over muscle movement. The person suffering from ALS cannot move and the body ceases to perform the normal functions as organs weaken.


Lupus can be detected if symptoms are carefully observed. The disease has symptoms which occur in the case of other diseases such as fever, joint pains, fatigue and loss of cognitive abilities. Distinctive signs on the skin such as a malar rash also known as the butterfly rash and other lesions occur in 30% to 50% of lupus cases. Anemia is also a symptom of the disease. Other signs are of a neuropsychiatric nature such as cognitive dysfunction, mood changes and anxiety.

ALS symptoms are muscle weakness until atrophy occurs, speaking and swallowing difficulties. As the disease progresses, the patient can suffer from respiratory issues due to intercostal muscle weakness.


Medications available today cannot fully treat the lupus disease, but they can reduce the severity of symptoms and the number of flare episodes. Corticosteroids and anti-malarial drugs like hydroxychloroquine, cytotoxic drugs like cyclophosphamide and mycophenolate are used. Analgesics are recommended for the chronic pain experienced by people suffering from lupus. Intravenous immunoglobulins can reduce the number of antibodies the immune system relies on to attack body cells and tissues.

To treat the ALS disease, there is an approved drug called Riluzole which reduces the damage of motor neurons. To alleviate the symptoms, patients can take a combination of drugs.

Similarities and Differences

  • Lupus is a chronic disease where the immune system attacks body cells and tissues. ALS is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease leading to loss of control over muscle movement.
  • Lupus symptoms include: fever, joint pains, malar rash, cognitive dysfunction, mood changes and anxiety. ALS symptoms include: muscle weakness, speaking and swallowing difficulties.
  • To alleviate lupus symptoms, patients can take corticosteroids, anti-malarial drugs, analgesics and intravenous immunoglobulins. For ALS treatment, it is recommended the use of the Riluzole drug.
Which disease strikes faster?
  • Lupus
  • ALS

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