Lupus: A chronic inflammatory disease that is caused by autoimmunity. Patients with lupus have in their blood unusual antibodies that are targeted against their own body tissues. Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. The first symptom is a red (or dark), scaly rash on the nose and cheeks, often called a butterfly rash because of its distinctive shape. As inflammation continues, scar tissue may form, including keloid scarring in patients prone to keloid formation. The cause of lupus is unknown, although heredity, viruses, ultraviolet light, and drugs may all play a role. Lupus is more common in women than in men, and although it occurs in all ethnic groups, it is most common in people of African descent. Diagnosis is made through observation of symptoms, and through testing of the blood for signs of autoimmune activity. Early treatment is essential to prevent progression of the disease. A rheumatologist can provide treatment for lupus, and this treatment has two objectives: treating the difficult symptoms of the disease and treating the underlying autoimmune activity. It may include use of steroids and other anti-inflammatory agents, antidepressants and/or mood stabilizers, intravenous immunoglobulin, and, in cases in which lupus involves the internal organs, chemotherapy. See also lupus, discoid; lupus erythematosis, systemic.
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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017