Lupus is a disease that causes inflammation and pain in any part of your body. It is an autoimmune disease, which causes your immune system to attack healthy tissue instead of fighting infections. Lupus is a chronic, often lifelong condition with no cure.
While lupus can affect any part of your body, it most commonly affects your joints, skin, and internal organs, such as your heart and kidneys. Because it affects so many areas of the body, lupus can cause a variety of symptoms, such as swelling and pain.
What is Inflammation?
Your immune system responds to infections and injuries in a number of ways. Inflammation, or swelling, is one of your immune responses – the excess fluid helps prevent the spread of infection and remove damaged tissue, among other actions. Lupus makes your immune system attack otherwise healthy tissue, which then causes inflammation in an otherwise healthy area of the body.
Inflammation usually happens when your immune system is fighting an infection or an injury. Having lupus means your immune system sometimes attacks healthy tissue, and causes inflammation there.
The main symptoms of lupus include swelling and pain. Other lupus symptoms include extreme fatigue, joint pain, or a butterfly rash.
What are the types of lupus?
The four types of lupus are:
Who is at risk for developing lupus?
While anyone can develop lupus, some people have a higher risk, including:
- Women ages 15 to 44: 9 out of 10 people with lupus are women in this age group
- African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, or Pacific Islanders
- People who have one or more family members with lupus or another autoimmune disease
What causes lupus?
Nobody knows what causes lupus, but medical experts do know lupus and other autoimmune disorders tend to run in families. They also think that viruses and environmental factors, such as sunlight, stress, smoking and certain medicines, may trigger or worsen symptoms in people who are most likely to develop lupus. Lupus is not contagious, which is to say you cannot catch the disease or give it to someone else.
While doctors know quite a bit about the condition, understanding lupus and its underlying causes will require more research.
Having lupus can be difficult, but you can keep your lupus under control by following a treatment plan, seeing your doctor regularly, limiting exposure to known triggers, and taking good care of your body.