Simple Facts About Lupus
- Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease, which causes inflammation of various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints and kidneys. It may also affect the blood. The immune system normally protects the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders. In an autoimmune disease like lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against the body itself.
- Lupus is NOT infectious, rare or cancerous.
- Although the cause of lupus is unknown, scientists suspect that individuals are genetically predisposed to lupus, and also know that environmental factors such as infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress and certain drugs play a critical role in triggering lupus.
- Lupus strikes adult women 10 to 15 times more frequently than adult men.
- Lupus is more prevalent in African Americans, Hispanics and Asians. African American women are three times more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women. Both African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more symptoms at diagnosis (including kidney problems).
- Only 10% of people with lupus will have a close relative (parent or sibling) who already has or may develop lupus. Only about 5% of the children born to individuals with lupus will develop the illness.
- Sometimes people with lupus experience a "flare." This occurs when some symptoms appear for short periods then disappear. Even if you take medicine for lupus, you may find that there are times when the symptoms become worse. Learning to recognize that a flare is coming can help you take steps to cope with it. Many people feel very tired or have pain, a rash, a fever, stomach discomfort, headache, or dizziness just before a flare....
- Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms come and go and mimic those of many other illnesses. Some symptoms of lupus can be transient such as joint and muscle pain, fatigue, a rash caused or made worse by sunlight, low-grade fevers, hair loss, pleurisy, appetite loss, sores in the nose or mouth, or painful sensitivity of the fingers in cold environments.
- Symptoms of lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and thousands of Americans die from lupus complications each year.
- With optimal care, most women with lupus can have healthy babies without endangering their own health.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Next Article: Frequently Asked Questions About Lupus
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