Systemic lupus erythematosus, also commonly referred to as lupus or SLE, is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart, nervous system and other organs of the body. It is not uncommon for symptoms associated with lupus to resemble symptoms associated with other types of arthritis and rheumatic disease, making lupus difficult to diagnose.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. have lupus. People of African, Asian and Native American descent are more likely to develop lupus than are Caucasians. Although it can occur in both men and women, 90% of people diagnosed with the disease are women. Women of childbearing age (14 to 45 years old) are most often affectedas many as 1 in 250 may develop lupus.
In lupus, the regulation of the immune system goes awry and the body produces autoantibodies (antibodies that attack the patient’s own tissues). This reaction results in inflammation that causes redness, pain and swelling in the affected parts of the body.
Lupus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex system within the body that is designed to fight infectious agents, for example, bacteria, and other foreign invaders.
Some patients with lupus have a very mild condition, which can be treated with simple medications, whereas others can have serious, life-threatening complications. Lupus is more common in women than men, and its peak incidence is after pubertythe reason for this is unknown.
Memory problems bother patients on a day-to-day basis. This is a huge problem, and we don’t know why. In lupus patients, we are often overlooking fibromyalgia. Thirty percent of my patients have fibromyalgia. You are tired, you hurt, and nothing your doctor does helps. Fibromyalgia is not inflammatory. It is a resetting of the pain thermostat in the brain. I suspect it has more of an impact on your day-to-day life than your lupus, if your lupus is not flaring.
Lupus can affect anybody but the distribution is somewhat uneven. The disease is much more common in women, especially those of childbearing age, with ratio of women to men being around 9:1. The disease also appears to be more prevalent in women of African, Asian, Hispanic and Native American origin but the degree to which this is due to genetics or socioeconomic factors is unknown.
If you have lupus, your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues by mistake. This can damage your joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. There are many kinds of lupus. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus, affects many parts of the body. Discoid lupus causes a rash that doesn’t go away. Subacute cutaneous lupus causes sores after being out in the sun. Another type can be caused by medication. Neonatal lupus, which is rare, affects newborns.
SLE (lupus) is an autoimmune disease. This means there is a problem with the body’s normal immune system response. But in patients with an autoimmune disease, the immune system can’t tell the difference between harmful substances and healthy ones. The result is an overactive immune response that attacks otherwise healthy cells and tissue. This leads to chronic (long-term) inflammation.