What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Normally, the immune system protects the body from infection with antibodies it produces. However, in lupus, these antibodies inappropriately attack various parts of the body. The disease triggers inflammation in different tissues, including joints, skins, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs. In children, lupus commonly damages the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure. In many cases, the most distinctive characteristic of lupus is a butterfly-shaped facial rash across both cheeks. Lupus may involve flare-ups, periods of remission, and relapse of inflammation. 
The most common type of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which affects different parts of the body including internal organs. Other types of lupus include: 
  • Cutaneous lupus (skin lupus) is lupus that affects the skin in the form of a rash or lesions. 
  • Drug-induced lupus is similar to SLE, but occurs as the result of an overreaction to certain medications. 
  • Neonatal lupus occurs when an infant passively acquires auto-antibodies from a mother with SLE.
Risk factors
  • Being a female. Women are more likely to develop lupus.
  • Age. Lupus typically is diagnosed in people 40 years and older, although children may be diagnosed as early as the age of 15. 
  • Race. Lupus is commonly found in African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians.
A diagnosis for lupus can be difficult due to signs and symptoms that are not specific and are similar to other diseases. Doctors perform symptom assessments, physical examinations, X-rays, as well as blood and lab tests. Rheumatologists often use specific criteria for diagnosis. 
There is no cure for lupus, although treatment may be provided. Treatment options aim to help relieve and monitor symptoms of lupus. 
  • The most recent estimated number of people with SLE indicated 322,000 people to have definite or probable SLE in the United States.
  • SLE was identified as the underlying cause of death for an average of 1,034 deaths from 2010–2014.
  • About 10% of lupus patients have a close relative with lupus.
lupus about

  • "Lupus Symptoms." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 June 2017.
  • "What Is Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)? | Cleveland Clinic: Health Library." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 June 2017.
  • "Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)." Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus) | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library). John Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 12 June 2017.
  • "Lupus." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 May 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.


Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues and causes widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected areas. Lupus is characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation (flare ups) of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin. The effects of the illness range from mild to severe. There is no cure for lupus, but medical interventions and lifestyle changes can help control it.
lupus 101 - what are the signs & symptoms?


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