Lupus


Fact: Approximately 5 million people in the world have Lupus

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.

In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues ("auto" means "self") and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.

There are two kinds of lupus:

  • Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)


DLE mainly affects skin that is exposed to sunlight and doesn’t typically affect vital internal organs. Discoid (circular) skin lesions often leave scars after healing of the lesions.

SLE is more serious: It affects the skin and other vital organs, and can cause a raised, scaly, butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose and cheeks that can leave scars if untreated. SLE can also affect other parts of the skin elsewhere on the body.

Aside from the visible effects of systemic lupus, the disease may also inflame and/or damage the connective tissue in the joints, muscles, and skin, along with the membranes surrounding or within the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. SLE can also cause kidney disease. Brain involvement is rare, but for some, lupus can cause confusion, depression, seizures, and strokes.

Blood vessels may come under attack with systemic lupus. This can cause sores to develop on the skin, especially the fingers. Some lupus patients get Raynaud's syndrome, which makes the small blood vessels in the skin contract, preventing blood from getting to the hands and feet -- especially in response to cold. Most attacks last only a few minutes, can be painful, and often turn the hands and feet white or a bluish color. Lupus patients with Raynaud’s syndrome should keep their hands warm with gloves during cold weather.

What are the Symptoms of Lupus?

Symptoms of lupus vary, but some of the most common symptoms of lupus are:

  • Pain or swelling in joints
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Red rashes, most often on the face
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Hair loss
  • Pale or purple fingers or toes
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Swelling in legs or around eyes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling very tired.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Anemia 
  • Headaches
  • Dizzy spells
  • Feeling sad
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Want to learn more?

The following are organizations and/or websites dedicated to providing information and education surrounding Lupus. These organizations are dedicated to research, education, awareness, and/or support. They are listed in Alphabetical order without any preference or prejudice. Listing these organizations is not a recommendation or referral in any regard for seeking treatment or consultation or support for treatment.

Lupus Foundation of America
National Institute of Arthritis and Muskuloskeletal and Skin Diseases

**Information on this page taken directly from The Lupus Foundation of America, NAIMS, and WebMD**