Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly referred to as lupus, is an autoimmune disease affecting every part of the body. Also, the term “lupus” is used for other, related diseases described below.
In SLE, the immune system, which normally protects the body from foreign invaders and infection, has malfunctions and attacks the healthy body tissues of a person instead. Most scientists believe genetics, combined with external triggers (such as infections, medicines or other environmental factors), lead people to develop lupus.
Lupus is a lifelong condition, but symptoms tend to cycle in alternate periods of “flares” (or “flares-ups”) and remissions. Lupus affects women much more frequently than men. There is no known cure, but numerous treatments are available.
There are five recognized forms of lupus:
• Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
• Discoid lupus
• Subacute cutaneous lupus
• Drug-induced lupus
• Neonatal lupus
Symptoms vary from person to person, but the typical lupus patient is a young woman who develops arthritis of the fingers, wrists or other small joints, hair loss, a rash usually on her face, and sometimes fever, swollen lymph nodes (glands), chest pain, and/or protein in the urine.