• Lupus

    What is Lupus?

    Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), belongs to a family of rheumatic disorders that includes arthritis and gout. In these autoimmune diseases, the body’s immune system malfunctions and damages the body’s own tissues.

    Lupus can cause damage to the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels. The type and severity of the damage vary from person to person. People with lupus have a range of symptoms that can include fatigue, pain and swelling of the joints, skin rashes and fevers. Symptoms disappear for periods of time, then flare up and cause periods of illness.

    Lupus is relatively rare. Estimates vary, but probably fewer than half a million people in the U.S. suffer from lupus. One study suggests that about 160,000 Americans have a clear diagnosis of SLE. The disorder affects all age groups, but most cases are in people between 15 and 40. More women than men have lupus, and African Americans are affected more than Caucasians. 

    The general nature of the symptoms and sporadic flare-ups make lupus very difficult to diagnose. Diagnosis is usually made by a rheumatologist, and patients with moderate to severe lupus are often treated at centers that specialize in rheumatic disorders, like academic medical centers.

    Doctors use inflammation-suppressing drugs and immune-suppressing drugs to treat and prevent flare ups. Numerous drugs are used to treat the wide-ranging symptoms of lupus. For more information, patients and families can contact the Lupus Foundation of America (http://www.lupus.org/newsite/index.html).