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What is lupus?


Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the body and blood. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, heart lining, lung lining and multiple organs. When a person is healthy, their immune system protects the body from things like bacteria, viruses, chemicals and toxic substances. When people have lupus, their immune system thinks its own tissue is foreign and attacks it. This causes inflammation.


What causes lupus?


The cause of lupus is unknown, but there are many reasons someone may get lupus. They include genetics, the environment, their tissue characteristics and certain triggers.


Who gets lupus?


Anyone can get lupus, but it is most common in women between the ages of 15 and 44. African American women are three times more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women. It is also more common in Hispanic, Asian and American Indian women, all of whom tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more symptoms.


What are the symptoms of lupus?


General symptoms of lupus can be:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Pain
  • Swelling or stiffness in joints
  • Hair loss
  • Low-grade fevers

Symptoms involving organs can be:

  • Oral ulcers
  • Skin rashes (including butterfly rash from sun exposure)
  • Joint stiffness or swelling
  • Chest pain when taking deep breaths
  • Foamy urine
  • Numbness or weakness in extremities

Is there a cure for lupus?


There is no cure for lupus. New and better treatments are available to control disease activity and improve survival and lifespans of lupus patients.


What are lupus flares?


Lupus can flare up after times when the disease has been quiet. When flares are severe, seek medical help.


What are common lupus flare triggers?


Common triggers of lupus flares include:

  • Sunlight (always wear sunscreen and protective clothing)
  • Viral infections
  • Sulfur medications
  • Stress

What is the difference between a flare and fatigue?


A flare is an increase in disease activity in one of more organ systems with signs and symptoms that can be measured. Your physician will tell you if the increase is enough to consider changing treatment. It is important to track your symptoms and triggers and share any changes with your physician.


What will help my lupus fatigue?


More than 80 percent of lupus patients have fatigue. It is important to know the difference between fatigue and flares. You can manage fatigue with simple measures such as exercise, sleep hygiene and a healthy diet. Additional strategies for managing your fatigue should be discussed with your physician.


What treatments help people with lupus?


There are new and better treatments that help keep lupus quiet, meaning most people with lupus can lead normal lives. Some common treatment options are Acetaminophen (Tylenol®), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, meloxicam and celecoxib, immunosuppressive medications such as hydroxychloroquine, corticosteroids, mycophenolate and azathioprine and infusion therapies such as cyclophosphamide and belumimab.


What should I do to help myself if I have lupus?


A good relationship with your lupus doctor will help you cope. It's important to be involved in your care. Our specialist will recommend self-management tools to help you with symptom tracking, monitoring your lupus triggers and tracking how your medications are working. We will recommend other things to help with oral ulcers, and ways to manage your energy, joint pain and hair loss.


Why is exercise important for people with lupus?


Exercise will help with joint pain by keeping joints flexible. It also helps people relax and sleep better. Doing exercises like yoga, walking, water aerobics and swimming are good for lupus patients.


How does diet improve lupus?


A healthier diet can help decrease fatigue and will help ease pain and inflammation. 


More Lupus Resources


Lupus Self-Management Tools