If you have lupus, you probably have many questions. Lupus isn’t a
simple disease with an easy answer. You can’t take a pill and make it go away.
The people you live with and work with may have trouble understanding that
you’re sick. Lupus doesn’t have a clear set of signs that people can see. You
may know that something’s wrong, even though it may take a while to be
Lupus has many shades. It can affect people of different races,
ethnicities, and ages, both men and women. It can look like different diseases.
It’s different for every person who has it.
The good news is that you can get help and fight lupus. Learning
about it is the first step. Ask questions. Talk to your doctor, family, and
friends. People who look for answers are more likely to find them. This section
can help you get started.
- What Is Lupus?
- What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lupus?
- What Is a Flare?
- What Causes Lupus?
- Who Gets Lupus?
- What Will the Doctor Do?
- Will I Get Medicine?
- How Can I Cope With Lupus?
- Hope Through Research
- Where Can People Find More Information About Lupus?
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune (AW-toe-ih-MYOON) disease. Your body’s
immune system is like an army with hundreds of soldiers. The immune system’s job
is to fight foreign substances in the body, like germs and viruses. But in
autoimmune diseases, the immune system is out of control. It attacks healthy
tissues, not germs.
You can’t catch lupus from another person. It isn’t cancer, and it
isn’t related to AIDS.
Lupus is a disease that can affect many parts of the body.
Everyone reacts differently. One person with lupus may have swollen knees and
fever. Another person may be tired all the time or have kidney trouble. Someone
else may have rashes. Lupus can involve the joints, the skin, the kidneys, the
lungs, the heart and/or the brain. If you have lupus, it may affect two or three
parts of your body. Usually, one person doesn’t have all the possible
There are three main types of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (eh-RITH-eh-muh-TOE-sus) is the most
common form. It’s sometimes called SLE, or just lupus. The word “systemic” means
that the disease can involve many parts of the body such as the heart, lungs,
kidneys, and brain. SLE symptoms can be mild or serious.
- Discoid lupus erythematosus mainly affects the skin. A red rash may
appear, or the skin on the face, scalp, or elsewhere may change color.
- Drug-induced lupus is triggered by a few medicines. It’s like SLE,
but symptoms are usually milder. Most of the time, the disease goes away when
the medicine is stopped. More men develop drug-induced lupus because the drugs
that cause it, hydralazine and procainamide, are used to treat heart conditions
that are more common in men.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lupus?
Lupus may be hard to diagnose. It’s often mistaken for other
diseases. For this reason, lupus has been called the “great imitator.” The signs
of lupus differ from person to person. Some people have just a few signs; others
Common signs of lupus are:
- Red rash or color change on the face, often in the shape of a butterfly
across the nose and cheeks
- Painful or swollen joints
- Unexplained fever
- Chest pain with deep breathing
- Swollen glands
- Extreme fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Unusual hair loss (mainly on the scalp)
- Pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Low blood count
- Depression, trouble thinking, and/or memory problems
Other signs are mouth sores, unexplained seizures (convulsions),
“seeing things” (hallucinations), repeated miscarriages, and unexplained kidney
What Is a Flare?
When symptoms appear, it’s called a “flare.” These signs may come
and go. You may have swelling and rashes one week and no symptoms at all the
next. You may find that your symptoms flare after you’ve been out in the sun or
after a hard day at work.
Even if you take medicine for lupus, you may find that there are
times when the symptoms become worse. Learning to recognize that a flare is
coming can help you take steps to cope with it. Many people feel very tired or
have pain, a rash, a fever, stomach discomfort, headache, or dizziness just
before a flare. Steps to prevent flares, such as limiting the time you spend in
the sun and getting enough rest and quiet, can also be helpful.