What is Lupus

Did you know?

  • Lupus is a complex disease that is hard to define. It strikes without warning, affects each person differently, and has no known causes or cure.
  • Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age. However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too. Most people with lupus develop the disease between the ages of 15-44.
  • More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the US.
  • Research estimates state at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus.
    It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.
  • Lupus symptoms can be severe and highly unpredictable and can damage any organ or tissue, from the skin or joints to the heart or kidneys.
  • Only one drug has ever been developed and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration specifically to treat lupus.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs). “Chronic” means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.

With lupus the immune system, part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs, attacks and destroys healthy tissue. Normally our immune systems produce proteins called “antibodies” which protect the body from invaders.

“Autoimmunity” means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign objects and your body’s healthy tissues. As a result, it creates antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue.

Because lupus can affect so many different organs, a wide range of signs and symptoms may occur. These symptoms may come and go, and different symptoms may appear at different times during the course of the disease.
Extreme fatigue
Painful or swollen joints
Anemia (low numbers of red blood cells or hemoglobin, or low total blood volume)
Swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
Chest Pain on deep breathing (pleurisy)
Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
Sun or light-sensitivity (photosensitivity)
Hair loss
Abnormal blood clotting
Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
Mouth or nose ulcers

Most people with lupus are able to continue their usual daily activities. But when your symptoms flare, you may find that you need to cut back on your activity level, get help with child care, or change the way you work. Or you may find that you need time off from all daily activities.

Most people with lupus can expect to live a normal or near-normal life span. This depends on how severe your disease is, whether it affects vital organs (such as the kidneys), and how severely these organs are affected.

A key to living with lupus is communication. Stay in touch with your doctor about new or increased symptoms, side effects of medicines, and your worries and anxieties. Talk with your family, friends, and employer so they understand what you can and can’t do, and what they can do to support you.