Facts on Lupus

Lupus is a chronic (long-term) disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system — the body system that usually fights infections — attacks healthy tissue instead.

Lupus most commonly affects your:

  • Skin
  • Joints
  • Internal organs, like your kidneys and heart

Because lupus affects many parts of the body, it can cause a lot of different symptoms. Inflammation usually happens when your immune system is fighting an infection or an injury. When lupus makes your immune system attack healthy tissue, it can cause inflammation in lots of different body parts. Symptoms can include swelling and pain.

Anyone can develop lupus. But certain people are at higher risk for lupus, including:

  • Women ages 15 to 44
  • Certain racial or ethnic groups — including people who are African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander
  • People who have a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease



What are the early symptoms of lupus?

There is no one first sign or symptom of lupus. The early signs and symptoms of lupus are generally the same as the symptoms of lupus, including extreme fatigue, joint pain, or a butterfly rash. However, the early signs vary widely from person to person.

A doctor can help you with a diagnosis to determine if the symptoms you’re feeling could possibly be lupus. To help you, we created the Could It Be Lupus questionnaire. Answer the questions about yourself and your signs and symptoms, and then print out your answers to share with your doctor.

What exactly is systemic lupus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is the most common type of lupus. SLE is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs. It can affect the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels.
What is the difference between lupus and systemic lupus?
When people use the term “lupus,” they usually refer to systemic lupus erythematosus, or “SLE.” Throughout this website, the term “lupus” is used to signal systemic lupus, since SLE constitutes the most common form of the disease. Systemic lupus is so-named because it affects many different organ systems in the body.
What is contagious lupus?
Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot “catch” lupus from someone or “give” lupus to someone. Lupus develops in response to a combination of factors both inside and outside the body, including hormones, genetics, and the environment.
What does a lupus headache feel like?
In fact, the headaches you have are sometimes simply called “lupus headaches” or “lupus fog.” These headaches may appear along with other brain problems caused by lupus. These include fatigue, confusion, memory issues, or trouble concentrating.
Can lupus go away?
In some people, lupus will flare, become inactive (quiescent), and go into remission—this course of the disease may or may not occur regularly throughout their life. In other people, lupus will remain in a chronic (long-lasting) state of activity. Some people will have fairly frequent flares of illness.
Is lupus considered a disability?
For Social Security’s purposes, lupus qualifies as a disability when it meets these conditions: It involves two or more organs or body systems. It includes at least two major signs or symptoms, such as severe fatigue, fever, malaise, and involuntary weight loss.
What can be mistaken for lupus?
Here are the conditions that are most likely to mimic the symptoms of lupus and how to make sure you get the right diagnosis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. …
  • Rosacea and other skin rashes. …
  • Dermatomyositis. …
  • Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. …
  • Hashimoto’s disease. …
  • Sjögren’s syndrome. …
  • Fibromyalgia.
How long do lupus patients live?
For people with lupus, some treatments can increase the risk of developing potentially fatal infections. However, the majority of people with lupus can expect a normal or near-normal life expectancy. Research has shown that many people with a lupus diagnosis have been living with the disease for up to 40 years.
What is lupus pain like?

Joint and muscle pain is often the first sign of lupus. This pain tends to occur on both sides of the body at the same time, particularly in the joints of the wrists, hands, fingers, and knees. The joints may look inflamed and feel warm to the touch.
Are bananas good for lupus?
Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, oranges, dairy, cheese, legumes, and chocolate. Additionally, phosphorus in the diet should also be reduced.
Can you drink alcohol with lupus?
Am I allowed to drink alcohol? Most people with lupus who are old enough to drink alcohol can do so in moderation. Be aware, however, that alcohol can change the way the body uses or metabolizes certain medications, rushing them into the bloodstream.
Can you have lupus for years and not know it?
Lupus affects everyone somewhat differently, and symptoms tend to come and go. Because of this, it can take months or even years for a doctor to make a confident diagnosis.
How do you feel w lupus?
Having lupus can make everyday life challenging. When your lupus is active, symptoms like joint stiffness, pain, fatigue, confusion, or depression can make simple tasks difficult — and sometimes impossible. Since these symptoms aren’t visible, the people around you may have trouble understanding how you feel.
Can lupus make you gain weight?
Weight changes — Lupus can sometimes cause weight loss or weight gain. Weight loss may be unintentional and due to decreased appetite or problems with the digestive system (see ‘Digestive system’ below). It can also be a side effect of some medications used to treat lupus.
Is Chicken Good for lupus?
There is no special diet for lupus, despite numerous claims on the Internet, and in various books and other publications. In general, you should try to eat a nutritious, well-balanced, and varied diet that contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of meats, poultry, and fish.
Is coffee good for lupus?
Coffee and other caffeine-containing foods are a mixed bag – both good and bad – for people with lupus. Fatigue is a common symptom, and it can come along with brain fog and. These feelings of malaise and tiredness are some of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of lupus.
Is milk bad for lupus?
Patients with lupus are at a greater risk of developing bone disorders such as osteoporosis and osteopenia. Calcium-rich foods can help protect you against some of these conditions. Some foods high in calcium include Dairy products*
What vitamins should someone with lupus take?
Vitamin E, zinc, vitamin A, and B vitamins are all beneficial in a lupus diet. Vitamin C can increase your ability to absorb iron and is a good source of antioxidants.
How can I boost my immune system with lupus?
Diet: For lupus patients, a healthy, well-balanced diet is particularly important for strengthening the ability to fight off disease. Foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar should be avoided. Fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, and seeds are recommended.
Do men get lupus?
Lupus can develop in anyone, male or female, of any age, including children, teenagers, and adults.

What are the four stages of lupus?
The four types of lupus are Lupus dermatitis, SLE, drug-induced lupus, and neonatal lupus. erythematosus (SLE).

What is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus — 70 % of people with lupus have it. It’s what most people mean when they refer to “lupus”.

SLE can cause inflammation of multiple organs or organ systems in the body, either acutely or chronically.  In contrast, cutaneous lupus (CLE), is limited to the skin, although in some patients, it may eventually progress to SLE. Drug-induced lupus can be caused by certain prescription medications. It has many of the same symptoms as SLE but rarely affects major organs and disappears about six months after the medication is stopped. Neonatal lupus occurs only in newborns and is not true lupus. Most of the symptoms of neonatal lupus will disappear after six months.

What causes SLE?

Experts don’t know what causes systemic lupus erythematosus, but lupus and other autoimmune diseases do run in families. Women ages 15 to 44 and certain ethnic groups—including African American, Asian American, Hispanics/Latino, and Native American—are at higher risk for developing SLE than the rest of the population.

What are the symptoms of SLE?

Symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) vary from person to person and they may come and go and change over time. Lupus shares symptoms with other diseases, which can make it difficult to diagnose. The most common symptoms include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Pain or swelling in the joints (arthritis)
  • Swelling in the feet, and around the eyes (typically due to kidney involvement)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low fevers

Below is a brief description of some of the more serious complications of systemic lupus erythematosus involving major organ systems.

  • Inflammation of the kidneys—called lupus nephritis—can affect the body’s ability to filter waste from the blood. It can be so damaging that dialysis or a kidney transplant may be needed.
  • Inflammation of the nervous system and brain can cause memory problems, confusion, headaches, and strokes.
  • Inflammation in the brain’s blood vessels can cause high fevers, seizures, and behavioral changes.
  • Hardening of the arteries or coronary artery disease—the buildup of deposits on coronary artery walls—can lead to a heart attack.
  • Inflammation of the skin can cause rashes, sores, and ulcers throughout the body. About half of all people with systemic lupus erythematosus will develop a malar rash — a butterfly-shaped rash mostly seen across the cheeks and nose that can get worse in the sunlight

What is cutaneous lupus?

Approximately two-thirds of people with lupus will develop some type of skin disease, called cutaneous lupus erythematosus. Skin disease in lupus can cause rashes or sores (lesions), most of which will appear on sun-exposed areas such as the face, ears, neck, arms, and legs. 40-70 percent of people with lupus will find that their disease is made worse by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or artificial light.

A dermatologist (a physician who specializes in caring for the skin) should treat lupus skin rashes and lesions. He or she will usually examine the tissue under a microscope to determine whether a lesion or rash is due to cutaneous lupus. Taking the tissue sample is called a biopsy

What is drug-induced lupus?

Drug-induced lupus is a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs.

The drugs most commonly connected with drug-induced lupus are:

  • hydralazine (used to treat high blood pressure or hypertension)
  • procainamide (used to treat irregular heart rhythms)
  • isoniazid (used to treat tuberculosis)

Drug-induced lupus is more common in men because they are given these drugs more often; however, not everyone who takes these drugs will develop the disease.

The symptoms of drug-induced lupus

Specific criteria for diagnosing drug-induced lupus have not been formally established. However, symptoms often overlap with those of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). These include:

  • muscle and joint pain sometimes with swelling
  • flu-like symptoms of fatigue and fever
  • serositis (inflammation around the lungs or heart that causes pain or discomfort)
  • certain laboratory test abnormalities

While the symptoms of drug-induced lupus are similar to those of systemic lupus, only rarely will any major organs be affected.

How quickly does drug-induced lupus develop?

It usually takes several months or even years of continuous therapy with the medication before symptoms appear. For people treated for one to two years at currently used doses of the high-risk drugs, approximately 5% of those taking hydralazine and 20% of those taking procainamide will develop drug-induced lupus. With most of the other drugs, the risk is less than 1% and usually less than 0.1% that those taking the medication will develop drug-induced lupus.

How long will drug-induced lupus continue?

The lupus-like symptoms usually disappear within six months after these medications are stopped.

What is neonatal lupus?

Neonatal lupus is not true lupus. It is a rare condition associated with anti-SSA/Ro and/or anti-SSB/La antibodies from the mother that affect the fetus. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts, but these symptoms typically disappear completely after six months with no lasting effects.

The most serious symptom is congenital heart block, which causes a slow heartbeat. Although very rare, newborns of women with lupus are at greater risk for developing this potentially life-threatening complication. Congenital heart block is usually detected when the fetus is between 18 and 24 weeks old. The condition does not disappear, and affected infants will eventually need a pacemaker.

With proper testing, physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth. Most infants of mothers with lupus are entirely healthy.


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