What is Lupus?

Lupus erythematosus, known commonly as Lupus, is an autoimmune disease that begins in our immune system, which is thepart of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs.  Healthy immune systems produce antibodies

infographic courtesy arthritistreatmentonline.com

infographic courtesy arthritistreatmentonline.com

that protect the body from these foreign invaders. With autoimmunity, or “self-ammunity” since “auto” is the Greek root of “self,” the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders like germs, and your body’s healthy tissues. With Lupus, the immune system becomes hyperactive and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues which can cause inflammation, pain and damage in any part of the body from skin and joints to vital internal organs.

Lupus is also a chronic illness which means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. Lupus is also a disease of flares (the worsening of symptoms) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better). There is no cure for lupus yet, but in most cases, the disease can be managed with medications and treatments.

Types of Lupus

There are four kinds of Lupus Erythematosus

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): meaning the disease can attack different systems of the body and may cause organ damage
  • Cutaneous Lupus: disease is limited to the skin and caused discoid rashes, scaly patches or lesions in the shape of disks or circles
  • Drug-Induced Lupus: certain medications trigger lupus-type symptoms but once medication is stopped the symptoms resolve. This rarely causes organ involvement or damage.
  • Neonatal Lupus: happens when a mother with lupus passes the antibodies to her child in the womb. The newborn is born with lupus symptoms that usually fade within a few months after birth and rarely cause any organ damage.

More information on the Types of Lupus

Symptoms of Lupus

In Latin, lupus means wolf, and erythematosus means redness. In the 18th century, doctors who first treated the disease noticed a common symptom: a red rash on the face and thought looked liked a wolf, or lupus, bite. Now, the red rash is referred to as the malar rash and is likened to a butterfly.

Symptoms of lupus range from mild to severe. Since it can attack multiple body systems and symptoms come and go and change suddenly, no two cases are alike. However, the most common symptoms that those with lupus report are:

  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Painful or swollen joints and muscle pain
  • Unexplained fever
  • Red rashes, most commonly on the face (sometimes referred to as Malar or Butterfly Rash)
  • Sensitivity to the sun

Rashes are a common symptom of lupus and can also appear on the ears, arms, shoulders, chest and the palms of the hands. These rashes signal widespread inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis, occurring in the body.

Some more serious conditions effects of lupus include:

  • Lupus Nephritis or disease and damage to the kidneys. Over 80% of lupus patients have kidney issues at some point in their disease.
  • Inflammation and damage of connective tissue in joints, muscles and skin
  • Inflammation of membranes in lungs, heart and brain
  • Neurological conditions ranging from confusion and depression to seizures and strokes.

More information on Symptoms of Lupus

Lupus also tends to “bring along” other autoimmune diseases. While it has not been determined that lupus causes the other autoimmune conditions to develop, many lupus patients seem predisposed to multiple conditions such as:

  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Hashimoto’s
  • Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sjögren’s syndrome

Looking for even more information about Lupus? Check out Lupus 101 for additional resources on Diagnosing Lupus and Lupus Treatment.



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