What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system targets and attacks its own tissues and organs.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system targets and attacks its own tissues and organs. Interestingly, more than 90% of lupus patients are women, and most of them start experiencing symptoms when they are in their childbearing age (15 to 49 years according to WHO).
Note: While the term lupus can refer to a localized skin condition, this article is referring to the systemic autoimmune disease, systemic lupus erythematosus.
What causes lupus?
The specific reason for getting lupus is unknown. Researchers understand, however, lupus involves some interaction among various factors including one’s genes, ethnicity, immune system, hormones, and the environment.
In certain vulnerable people, exposure to UV rays, certain infections, and drugs have been found to play a role in promoting lupus.
Several factors make a person more likely to develop lupus:
- Female gender
- Childbearing age
- African American
- Asian American
- Native American
- Pacific Islander
- Having a family member with lupus (genetics)
What is the first sign of lupus?
Lupus is a lifelong disease that can directly or indirectly affect any part of your body. The signs and symptoms of lupus depend on whether you develop the disease as a child or an adult. Most lupus patients visit their doctor with rash or joint pain as initial complaints.
In children, the following symptoms are common:
- Malar rash (a butterfly-shaped rash involving the cheeks and the bridge of the nose)
- Increased tendency for bleeding
- Pale or anemic appearance
- Joint pain
In adults, the following symptoms can also be observed:
Other symptoms include:
The classic triad of lupus is the presence of rash, fever and joint pain in a female of childbearing age.
Is lupus curable?
Lupus does not have a cure. As lupus involves different organs in the body, the treatment aims to provide relief from the symptoms and improve quality of life, along with preventing further damage to the organs. Thus, treating lupus is a lifelong process.
Many drugs are used in treating lupus, namely:
Is lupus contagious?
No. Lupus does not spread from person to person by touch or any other means. Since it depends on many factors including genes and immunity, you cannot ‘catch’ lupus like flu or other infections.
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Medically Reviewed on 5/21/2020
Lupus Foundation of America
World Health Organization