Lupus Fact Sheet

  • 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 against 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."

  • Lupus is NOT infectious, rare or cancerous.

  • Approximately 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide have a form of lupus.

  • Although the cause of lupus is unknown, scientists suspect that individuals are genetically predisposed to lupus, and we know that environmental factors such as infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress and certain drugs play a critical role in triggering lupus.

  • Ninety percent of the people with lupus are women. Lupus is more prevalent in African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians.

  • Only 10% of people with lupus will have a close relative (parent or sibling) who already has or may develop lupus. Only about 5% of the children born to women with lupus will develop the illness.

  • Lupus can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms come and go and mimic many 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 and/or toes to the cold.

  • Although lupus ranges from mild to life-threatening, and thousands of Americans die from complications of lupus each year, the majority of cases can be controlled with proper treatment.

  • While medical science has not yet developed a method for curing lupus, research brings new findings and increased hope each year.

  • The Lupus Foundation of America has a nationwide network of chapters and support groups providing support for patient services, education, awareness and research in their local areas.

  • The Lupus Foundation of America is the nation's leading nonprofit voluntary health organization solely dedicated to finding the causes and care for lupus. Our mission is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of lupus, support individuals and families affected by the disease, increase awareness of lupus among health professionals and the public, and find the causes and cure.

Test Yourself For Lupus

  1. Have you ever had achy, painful and/or swollen joints for more than three months?

  2. Do your fingers an/or toes become pale, numb or uncomfortable in the cold?

  3. Have you had any sores in your mouth for more than two weeks?

  4. Have you ever been told that you have a low blood count(2) - anemia, low white cell count or a low platelet count?

  5. Have you ever had a prominent redness or color change in the shape of a butterfly across the bridge of your nose and cheeks?

  6. Have you ever had an unexplained fever over 100 degrees for more than a few days?

  7. Have you ever had a sensitivity to the sun where your skin "breaks out" after being in the sun (not a sunburn)?

  8. Have you ever had chest pain with breathing for more than a few days (pleurisy)?

  9. Have you ever been told you have protein in your urine?

  10. Have you ever experienced persistent, extreme fatigue and weakness for days or even weeks at a time even after 6-8 hours of restful nighttime sleep?

  11. Have you ever had a seizure or convulsion?

If you can answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, talk to your doctor about lupus. Early diagnosis and proper medical care can often keep lupus under control.


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