What is lupus?

Lupus is a chronic disease that can have a serious and widespread effect on the body including the skin, joints, muscles, and other organs. However, in many cases, lupus is a mild disease that can be successfully controlled with regular medical care. About 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and about 90 percent of people with lupus are women, according to the Lupus Foundation of America (Source: LFA).

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Normally, your immune system can tell the difference between your own tissues and foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. The immune system produces antibodies that target bacteria, viruses, and other abnormal substances for destruction. But in an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissues and organs as dangerous invaders in the body and attacks them. This results in chronic inflammation that can eventually damage and destroy the affected tissues and organs.

There are four types of lupus. They include:

  • Discoid lupus erythematosus affects the skin. Discoid lupus is also known as cutaneous lupus.

  • Drug-induced lupus erythematosus occurs as a side effect of some drugs, such as beta blockers, which are commonly used to treat heart disease and hypertension.

  • Neonatal lupus erythematosus is a rare form of lupus in newborn babies whose mothers have lupus, which can cause problems at birth or a serious heart defect in rare cases.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus causes inflammation in multiple organs and body systems.

The onset of lupus often occurs in young adulthood through middle age. Common lupus symptoms include joint pain; extreme fatigue; headaches; swelling of the legs, feet, hands and face; hair loss; and a butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose. However, in many cases, lupus is a mild disease characterized by periodic episodes of some of these symptoms. Seeking regular medical care and following your treatment plan may help reduce the risk of serious complications of lupus.

In some cases, lupus can progress further and result in serious, even fatal complications, such as heart disease, infections, and kidney failure. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have symptoms of complications of lupus, such as trouble breathing, swelling of the legs, decreased urine output, chest pain, high fever, or a change in alertness or consciousness.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of lupus?

Symptoms of lupus are the result of tissue inflammation throughout various parts of the body. The type and severity of symptoms vary between individuals and the type of lupus. However, lupus generally occurs as periodic attacks of symptoms. These symptom flare-ups are followed by periods of time in which symptoms improve.... Read more about lupussymptoms

CAUSES

What causes lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissues and organs as dangerous invaders in the body and attacks them. This results in inflammation that can eventually damage and destroy the affected tissues and organs. What causes this autoimmune response in the body is not known, but it is thought that lupus is triggered by various environmental factors and possibly a genetic predisposition for developing an autoimmune disorder. In some cases, an individual who develops lupus has a relative with lupus or another autoimmune disease.... Read more about lupuscauses

TREATMENTS

How is lupus treated?

There is no cure for lupus. However, it is a myth that lupus is commonly a fatal disease. With early recognition, regular medical care, and good patient compliance with a treatment plan, it is possible for most people with lupus to live a normal life.... Read more about lupustreatments

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian MD Last Annual Review Date: Apr 4, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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