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Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints and/or organs inside the body). Chronic refers to signs and symptoms lasting longer than 6 weeks and often for many years. Autoimmune is when the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria and germs, and the body’s healthy tissues. The body creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues and organs. These antibodies cause inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body. Lupus is a disease of flares (symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (symptoms improve and you feel better).

Symptoms can vary from person to person and change over time, even within the same person. It is important to monitor the symptoms even when they may seem minor, temporary or unrelated to other symptoms. Common symptoms include pain in the muscles, pain while breathing or sharp pain in the chest. The mouth can have dryness and ulcers. The skin can have scaly rashes or red rashes. One may experience major depression or anxiety. Fever above 100F degrees, malaise, anemia or extreme fatigue that won’t get better with rest are other symptoms. Hair loss or loss of scalp hair is also common. Other symptoms include: sensitivity to light, blood in the urine, Raynaud’s Syndrome, a butterfly-shaped pattern across the nose and cheeks, water retention, joint pain, stiffness and swelling in 2 or more joints, headache and acute episodes of weight loss.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), 1.5 to 2 million Americans have some form of lupus. Prevalence is approximately 40 cases per 100,000 persons among Northern Europeans and 200 per 100,000 persons among African-Americans. African-American females suffer from more severe symptoms and a higher mortality rate.

Although doctors don’t know exactly what causes lupus and other autoimmune diseases, most believe both genetic and environmental stimuli play a role. Since lupus is known to occur in families, it is possible to inherit a genetic predisposition to lupus, doctors believe. However, no known genes that directly cause illness have been found. It is probable that having an inherited predisposition for lupus makes the disease more likely only after coming in contact with some environmental trigger. The higher number of lupus cases in females than males may indicate that the disease can be triggered by certain hormones. Physicians believe that hormones such as estrogen regulate the progression of the disease because symptoms tend to flare before menstrual periods and/or during pregnancy. Environmental factors that have been known to cause lupus symptoms include extreme stress, UV exposure, usually sunlight, smoking, some medications and antibiotics, especially those in sulfa and penicillin groups. Some infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), parovirus (such as 5th disease), Hepatitis C infection and Epstein-Barr virus in children. Chemical exposure to compounds such as triclorethylene in well water and dust is also a factor.



The type of lupus that refer to simply as “lupus” is known as systemic lupus erythematous (SLE). Other types include discoid (cutaneous), drug-induced and neonatal. Females have lupus 9x more often than males. There are 16,000 new cases reported annually. It is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus. Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44), however, men, children and teens develop it to. Women of color are 2-3x more likely to develop it than Caucasians.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose. It is hard to recognize and sometimes takes weeks to years to diagnose. After the doctor takes a medical history and physical examination on the patient to check for certain criteria that will help in diagnosing. Test such as ANA test and other antibody blood tests, Complement test, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) or C-reactive protein (CRP), Complete Blood Count (CBC) or Urinalysis can be used in diagnosing the patient. These tests, along with others, including imaging, depending on the symptoms the patient is experiencing can also help in not only diagnosing but as part of the ongoing monitoring and treatment of lupus.

Lupus can be managed medically with antimalarial (Chloroquine), steroids by injections or by mouth and other treatments by injections and orally. Another common treatment immunotherapy. Management of lupus done when the person takes care of themselves. They will see a reduction in the frequency, severity of flares if they make healthy lifestyle choices such as quit smoking, pain management, rehab with physical therapy and control fatigue.. It is also important to exercise regularly, become educated about lupus, eat a healthful balanced diet and surround oneself with support system of family, friends and health professionals.

More people have lupus than cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis combined. Mortality: 10 year survival rate is 76-90%. Ninety percent live a normal lifespan. One out of 600 Caucasian women develop lupus while 1 out of 200 African-American women develop it.

Celebrities with lupus are Toni Braxton, Seal (the scars on this face are from a type of lupus that affects the skin and scalp), Nick Cannon, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga, to name a few.


The information in this post is for informational purposes only. If you think you may have lupus, contact your health care provider for any medical advice.