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What is Lupus?

LUPUS IS A CHRONIC, autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood and kidneys. The immune system normally protects the body from viruses, bacteria and other foreign materials. In an autoimmune disease like lupus, the immune system loses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against “self”. Researchers do not know the cause of lupus. While scientists believe there is a genetic predisposition to the disease, it is known that environmental factors also play a role in triggering the disease. Some of the environmental factors that may trigger lupus include infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain drugs, and hormones. Hormonal factors may explain why lupus occurs more frequently in females than in males. Lupus is often triggered in people where there is existing family history of lupus and/or other immune system illnesses, such as arthritis, rheumatism, MS and others. Lupus affects 1 out of every 185 Americans and strikes adult women 10 to 15 times more frequently than adult men. Lupus is more prevalent in African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians. Lupus is NOT infectious, rare, or cancerous. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms come and go and mimic other illnesses. Some symptoms of lupus can be transient joint and muscle pain, fatigue, a rash caused by or made worse by sunlight, low grade fevers, hair loss, pleurisy, appetite loss, sores in the nose or mouth or painful sensitivity of the fingers to cold. Although lupus can range from mild to life-threatening the idea that it is generally a fatal disease is one of the gravest misconceptions about this illness. In fact, the prognosis of lupus is much better than before! With early diagnosis and current therapy, 80 to 90 percent of patients can look forward to a normal life span if they follow the instructions of their physician. Because lupus patients are living longer the emphasis in the future will be on treating the long term effects of the drugs used to treat lupus patients.