What is systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body's natural defense system (immune system) attacks healthy tissues instead of attacking only things like bacteria and viruses. This causes inflammation.
people with lupus have only mild symptoms, the disease is lifelong and can
become severe. But most people can control their symptoms and prevent severe
damage to their organs. They do this by seeing their doctors often for
checkups, getting enough rest and exercise, and taking medicines.
This topic focuses on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common
and most serious type of lupus. But there are other types of lupus, such as discoid or cutaneous lupus, drug-induced systemic lupus, and neonatal lupus.
What causes lupus?
The exact cause of lupus is not
known. Experts believe that some people are born with certain
genes that affect how the immune system works. These people are more likely to get lupus. Then a number of other things can trigger
lupus attacks. These include viral infections, including the virus that causes
mononucleosis, and sunlight.
Although these things can trigger
lupus, they may affect one person but not another person.
What are the symptoms?
Lupus symptoms vary
widely, and they come and go. The times when symptoms get worse are called
relapses, or flares. The times when symptoms are under control are called
Common symptoms include feeling very tired and having
joint pain or swelling (arthritis), a fever, and a
skin rash . The rash often happens after you have been in the sun. You may have mouth sores
and hair loss. Over time, some people with lupus have problems with
the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood cells, or
How is lupus diagnosed?
There is no single test
for lupus. Because lupus affects different people in different ways, it can be
hard to diagnose.
Your doctor will check for lupus by examining
you, asking you questions about your symptoms and past health, and doing some urine and blood tests.
How is it treated?
Treatment for lupus may include:
- Corticosteroid cream for
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for mild joint or muscle pain and
- Antimalarial medicines to treat fatigue, joint pain,
and skin rashes.
- Corticosteroid pills if other medicines aren't controlling
The doctor may also recommend
other medicines that slow down the immune system (immunosuppressants).
How can you manage lupus?
One of the goals of
controlling mild to moderate lupus symptoms is to prevent flares. You can:
- Rest to reduce stress.
- Avoid the
sun. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing when you are outside.
Exercise regularly to prevent fatigue and joint stiffness.
- Watch your symptoms. If they seem to be getting worse, take steps to control them. For example, if your fatigue, pain, or rash gets worse, it may be a sign of a flare.
With good self-care, most people who have lupus can keep
doing their regular daily activities.
It is important to learn
about lupus so that you can understand how it might affect your life and how
you can best cope with it. Also, help your family and friends understand your
limitations and needs when your symptoms flare. Build a support system of
family, friends, and health professionals.
Frequently Asked Questions