Lupus Fact Sheet

Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

  • Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease which causes inflammation of various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. The immune system normally protects the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign material. 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 itself.
  • Lupus is NOT infectious, rare, or cancerous.
  • Although the cause of lupus is unknown, scientists suspect that individuals are generally predisposed to lupus, and know that environmental factors such as infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress and certain drugs play a critical role in triggering lupus.
  • Lupus affects 1 out of every 185 Americans and strikes adult women 10-15 times more frequently than adult men. Lupus is more prevalent in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians.
  • 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.
  • Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms come and go and mimic many other illnesses. Some symptoms of lupus can be transient joint and muscle pain, fatigue, a rash caused by 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 to cold.
  • Although lupus ranges from mild to life-threatening and thousands of Americans die with lupus each year, the majority of cases can be controlled with proper treatment.
  • With current methods of therapy, most people with lupus can look forward to a normal life span.
  • While medical science has not yet developed a method for curing lupus, new research brings unexpected findings and increased hope each year.
  • The Lupus Foundation of America has nearly 100 local chapters directly providing patient services, education, awareness and research in their local areas.

For additional information, please read the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus article.

(Source: Lupus Foundation of America, http://www.lupus.org/)


Last Editorial Review: 12/29/2004