Lupus is a lifelong autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks healthy cells. This is systemic and can affect various parts of the body. Systemic lupus is the most common form of the disease. In fact, over 16,000 new cases are reported in the United States each year. Inflammation is the hallmark of lupus (also known as systemic lupus erythematosus). This can lead to serious and painful health concerns. In extreme cases, the disease can compromise the way major organs function. As such, common symptoms include arthritis/joint inflammation, fatigue, skin rashes, muscle pain and fevers.
Who gets Lupus?
According to the National Institutes of Health, lupus is more common in women than men. (The condition usually affects women between the ages of 15 and 44.) Additionally, African American women are two to three times more likely to develop lupus. An exact cause of lupus remains unclear. Even so, the National Institutes of Health reports that genetics are likely at play.
In terms of treating lupus, the available options typically focus more on managing the symptoms than curing the condition. Anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids are often used. For many people with lupus, the condition will improve and then recur in waves. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, it is not contagious. In other words, you can’t “catch” lupus. Some cases are mild, while others are life threatening. Regardless of the severity, it occurs due to an abnormal immune response that attacks healthy tissue.
It is estimated that five million people worldwide suffer from lupus. When it comes to diagnosis, the Lupus Foundation of America reports that the condition is often called “the great imitator.” This is because so many of its symptoms mimic those of other illnesses. When diagnosing the condition, a doctor will likely consider a variety of factors including specific symptoms and medical history.