What is Lupus?

What is Lupus

Points To Remember About Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a disease that can damage many parts of the body, such as the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. You can’t catch lupus from another person.

If you have lupus you will have periods of illness (flares) and periods of wellness (remission).

What happens in lupus?

Lupus occurs when the immune system, which normally helps protect the body from infection and disease, attacks different parts of the body.

Who Gets it?

We know that many more women than men have systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). Lupus is more common in African American women than in Caucasian women and is also more common in women of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent. African American and Hispanic women are also more likely to have active disease and serious organ system involvement. In addition, lupus can run in families, but the risk that a child or a brother or sister of a patient will also have lupus is still quite low.

Although SLE usually first affects people between the ages of 15 and 45 years, it can occur in childhood or later in life as well.


Each person with systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) has slightly different symptoms that can range from mild to severe. You may have symptoms in only one or in many parts of your body. Symptoms may also come and go over time.

Some of the most common symptoms of lupus include:

  • Painful or swollen joints (arthritis).
  • Unexplained fever.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Red rashes, most often on the face.
  • Chest pain upon deep breathing.
  • Hair loss.
  • Sensitivity to the sun.
  • Mouth sores.
  • Pale or purple fingers and toes from cold and stress.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Swelling in the legs or around the eyes.

Other symptoms could include:

  • Anemia (a decrease in red blood cells).
  • Kidney inflammation, which typically requires drug treatment to prevent permanent damage.
  • Headaches, dizziness, depression, confusion, or seizures if the disease affects the central nervous system.
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels.
  • Decreased number of white blood cells or platelets.
  • Increased risk of blood clots.
  • Inflammation of the heart or the lining that surrounds it.
  • Heart valve damage.


No one completely understands what causes systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). Studies suggest that a number of different genes may determine your risk for developing the disease.

Some environmental factors also appear to play a role in lupus. In particular, scientists are studying the effects of sunlight, stress, hormones, cigarette smoke, certain drugs, and viruses.



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