Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue.
This results in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs.
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments.
The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many but not all cases of lupus.
Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight.
While there’s no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms.
Who Gets Lupus?
Anyone can get lupus, but it most often affects women. Lupus is also more common in women of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.
What Causes Lupus?
The cause of lupus is not known. Research suggests that genes play an important role, but genes alone do not determine who gets lupus. It is likely that many factors trigger the disease.
How Is Lupus Diagnosed?
There is no single test to diagnose lupus. It may take months or years for a doctor to diagnose lupus. Your doctor may use many tools to make a diagnosis:
- Medical history
- Complete exam
- Blood tests
- Skin biopsy (looking at skin samples under a microscope
- Kidney biopsy (looking at tissue from your kidney under a microscope
The signs and symptoms of lupus that you experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease.
The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Fatigue and fever
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
How Is Lupus Treated?
You may need special kinds of doctors to treat the many symptoms of lupus. Your health care team may include:
- A family doctor
- Rheumatologists—doctors who treat arthritis and other diseases that cause swelling in the joints
- Clinical immunologists—doctors who treat immune system disorders
- Nephrologists—doctors who treat kidney disease
- Hematologists—doctors who treat blood disorders
- Dermatologists—doctors who treat skin diseases
- Neurologists—doctors who treat problems with the nervous system
- Cardiologists—doctors who treat heart and blood vessel problems
- Endocrinologists—doctors who treat problems related to the glands and hormones
Fast facts on lupus
- Lupus is an autoimmune disease, caused by problems in the body’s immune system. It can be mild or life threatening.
- Lupus is not contagious
- More than 90% of lupus sufferers are women.
- It is also said that 5 million people worldwide suffer from some form of Lupus.Most Doctors believe that lupus results from both genetic and environmental stimuli.
- Lupus is most common between the ages of 15-45.
- Risk factors include exposure to sunlight, certain prescription medications, infection with Epstein-Barr virus, and exposure to certain chemicals.
- Although there is no cure, lupus and its symptoms can be controlled with medication.