What is it?

Lupus is one of many autoimmune diseases. It most commonly attacks the skin, joints, and internal organs like the heart and kidneys. Lupus has a lot of different symptoms because it affects many different body parts. Many times lupus sufferers will not have all the symptoms. There are four kinds of lupus.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus

Cutaneous lupus is a form of lupus that is limited to the skin

Drug-induced lupus, a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs

Neonatal lupus, a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus {}

When most people say lupus they usually are talking about systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

What are the symptoms?

The most common lupus symptoms (which are the same for men and women) are:

Extreme fatigue (feeling tired all the time)

Pain or swelling in the joints

Swelling in the hands, feet, or around the eyes


Low fevers

Sensitivity to sunlight or fluorescent light

Chest pain when breathing deeply

Many people with lupus also have problems that affect their skin and hair, like:

A butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose

Hair loss

Sores in the mouth or nose

Fingers and toes turning white or blue and feeling numb when a person is cold or stressed (Raynaud’s Disease) {}

How is it diagnosed?

When you have lupus, your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues, so autoantibodies are made that damage and destroy healthy tissue (auto means self and anti means against, so autoantibody means against self). These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.

A physician will review the following while evaluating a lupus diagnosis:

Your current symptoms.

Your laboratory test results.

Your medical history.

The medical history of your close family members (grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins).

There is no single diagnostic test for systemic lupus. The test you will hear most about is called the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test. This is not a specific test for lupus, however. In fact, a variety of laboratory tests are used to detect physical changes or conditions in your body that can occur with lupus. Each test result adds more information to the picture your doctor is forming of your illness.

Laboratory tests alone cannot give a definite “yes” or “no” diagnosis because of the following limitations:

No single laboratory test can determine whether a person has lupus.

Test results suggest lupus can be due to other illnesses or can even be seen in healthy people.

A test result may be positive one time and negative another time.

Different laboratories may produce different test results.

If multiple diagnostic criteria are present simultaneously, your physician may reach a lupus diagnosis. If, however, as is often the case, symptoms present gradually over time, the diagnosis may not be as obvious. In these cases, further consultation with a rheumatologist may be needed. {}

How can it be treated?

There is currently no cure for lupus but doctors can treat the symptoms of lupus. A rheumatologist will be able to help find the right treatment plan for lupus. The goal of treatment is:

Control your symptoms — like joint pain, swelling, and feeling tired

Keep your immune system (the part of the body that fights off bacteria and viruses) from attacking your body

Protect your organs from damage {}

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