Lupus is the common term used for the disease system lupus erythematosus (SLE). It's an autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. It can cause a vast variety of symptoms in different parts of the body. This makes lupus often difficult to diagnose because symptoms tend to be similar to those of other health conditions.
Lupus affects women about 10 times more often than men, and it usually develops between the ages of 15 and 45.
Symptoms of Lupus
Many symptoms of lupus overlap with symptoms of other conditions, but if you have enough of these warning signs, your doctor can determine if lupus is the cause. Symptoms can include muscle pain and stiffness like arthritis, fatigue and weakness, unexplained fever, skin rashes, memory problems and confusion, anemia, hair loss and sun sensitivity.
The reason that lupus encompasses so many symptoms is that the immune system is attacking the body’s healthy tissues. Because this can occur in various parts of the body, lupus can present in different people in many different ways.
A relatively new class of drugs, biologics, have helped many people with lupus because they directly affect the body’s autoimmune response and thus can relieve symptoms. Other drugs often prescribed to directly treat symptoms related to lupus include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and anti-malarial medications. For more extreme cases, corticosteroids and immune suppressants may be needed to treat severe symptoms and complications related to lupus.
SOURCES: American College of Rheumatology; Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services