In response to a recent increase in media interest in lupus (ie: Michael Jackson) , the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) is providing a fact sheet about the disease. For additional information, please visit the LFA website at www.lupus.org
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system is unbalanced, causing inflammation and tissue damage to virtually any tissue or organ in the body. Its health effects include skin lesions, heart attacks, strokes, seizures, miscarriages, and organ failure.
What are the symptoms of lupus?
The most common symptoms include severe joint pain and swelling, overwhelming fatigue, fevers, skin rashes, pain in the chest on deep breathing, hair loss, and sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Symptoms come and go and can change over time, and range from mild to life-threatening.
What are the different forms of lupus?
There are several forms of lupus, the most common being cutaneous and systemic. Cutaneous lupus is limited to the skin and is often identified by a rash or skin lesions that appears on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the scalp, face, neck, hands, and arms. Cutaneous lupus accounts for approximately 10% of all cases. Systemic lupus is usually more severe and can affect almost any organ or system of the body, including the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, heart, nervous system, and brain. Approximately 70% of lupus cases are systemic. In about half of these cases, a major organ will be affected.
Who develops lupus?
Ninety percent of the people with lupus are women. The disease develops most often between the ages of 15 and 44, although males and females of any age can be affected. Lupus is two to three times more common among African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, and Asians, than among Caucasians. Based on several nationwide telephone surveys, the LFA estimates that approximately 1,500,000 Americans have a form of the disease.
What causes lupus?
The exact causes of lupus are unknown. Researchers believe that certain environmental factors play a role in triggering the disease in people who are genetically susceptible to developing lupus. These environmental triggers include infections, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, antibiotics and certain other drugs, and hormonal changes. Hormonal factors may explain why lupus occurs more frequently in females than in males. Despite some statements in the media recently, there is no known connection between childhood abuse and lupus. Lupus is NOT infectious, rare, or cancerous. It is not related to or like HIV/AIDS.