Yet many people do not know what lupus is and how serious it can be. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, and brain. Normally the body’s immune system makes proteins called antibodies that protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders. These foreign invaders are called antigens.
In an autoimmune disorder like lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies that, simply put, attack the body itself. This causes inflammation, pain and damage to various organs.
Inflammation is considered the primary feature of lupus. Inflammation causes pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function, inside and/or outside the body. For many people, lupus can be a manageable disease with relatively mild symptoms. For others, it may cause serious and even life-threatening problems.
Sometimes people with lupus experience a “flare.” This occurs when some symptoms appear or get worse for short periods then disappear or get better. Even if you take medicine for lupus, you may find that there are times when the symptoms become worse. Learning to recognize that a flare is coming can help you take steps to cope with it. Many people feel very tired or have pain, a rash, a fever, stomach discomfort, headache, or dizziness just before a flare. It is not infectious, rare or cancerous.
It’s estimated that more than 16,000 Americans develop lupus each year. We do not know the cause, but scientists believe some people are predisposed to the disease. In the United States, lupus is more common among African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans than Caucasians.
Symptoms of lupus include:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Fever greater that 100∘F
- Prolonged or extreme fatigue
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Kidney problems
- Chest pain, especially when breathing deeply
- Rashes especially on the face
- Light sensitivity
- Hair loss
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Eye problems (dry eyes, inflammation, rashes0
- Mouth or nose ulcers