Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a long-term autoimmune disease. In an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks parts of your own body.
Lupus is most common in women between the ages of 15 and 44, but it can happen to just about anyone
Joint and skin problems are common, but you may have problems with your kidneys, heart and lungs, brain, or other organs
Doctors may give you corticosteroids or other medicines that slow down your immune system
Lupus is a lifelong condition, but the earlier it's diagnosed, the better
In lupus your immune system attacks the connective tissue in your body. Doctors don’t know what causes this to happen.
Connective tissue is an important building block in the body. Connective tissue is in all your organs to hold them together. A problem with connective tissue can affect almost any organ in your body.
Sometimes, certain medicines cause lupus. If this happens, your symptoms usually go away when you stop taking the medicine.
Symptoms can start slowly and build over time, or they can begin suddenly. Symptoms may come and go, sometimes disappearing for years between flare-ups.
Symptoms vary a lot depending on what parts of your body have been affected. Common symptoms for many people include:
Joint pain or swelling
Tiredness and feeling unwell
A red rash across your nose and cheeks, sometimes called a butterfly rash because it's shaped like a butterfly
Red rash on your neck, upper chest, or elbows
Worsening of rash when you're out in the sun
Raynaud syndrome (your fingers get pale, tingly, and numb when you get cold)
Symptoms that involve other parts of your body include:
The following may cause your lupus symptoms to get worse or flare up:
No one test can say whether you have lupus. Doctors use a set of criteria to say whether you have lupus. The criteria include a long list of:
Instead of the criteria, doctors can also diagnose lupus based on:
Doctors treat mild lupus with:
If your lupus is doing a lot of damage to your kidneys and other organs, doctors may have you take:
If lupus has severely damaged your kidneys, doctors will treat you with:
You may need special care during pregnancy to keep from losing your baby, having your baby early, or having high blood pressure while you're pregnant. It's best to try to time a pregnancy for when you aren't having lupus symptoms.
Lupus increases your risk of getting infections, cancer, and other problems so it's important to see your doctor regularly over the long-term.