What Is Lupus?
Types of Doctors That
What Are The Forms of
What Are The Causes of
What Are The Symptoms of Lupus?
How Is Lupus
What Are Some Facts About
What Are The Treatments For
What Are The Common Asked
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body
(skin, joints and/or organs inside the body). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that
protect the body from foreign substances, like bacteria and viruses. With lupus, your immune system cannot tell the
difference between these foreign invaders and your body's healthy tissues and creates auto-antibodies ("auto" means
"self") to attack and destroy healthy tissue. These auto-antibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various
parts of the body.
Lupus is also a
disease of inflammation (“flares”)- symptoms worsen and you feel ill and or remissions (“inactive”)- symptoms
improve and you feel better.
Lupus can ranges
from mild to life threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. People with lupus can lead a full life when
under a doctor’s care.
Types of Doctors That Treat Lupus?
You may need special kinds of doctors to
treat the many of your lupus symptoms. Your health care team may include:
or primary care doctor
Rheumatologists—doctors who treat arthritis and other diseases that cause swelling in
immunologists—doctors who treat immune system disorders
Nephrologists—doctors who treat kidney disease
Hematologists—doctors who treat blood disorders
Dermatologists—doctors who treat skin diseases
Neurologists—doctors who treat problems with the nervous system
Cardiologists—doctors who treat heart and blood vessel problems
Endocrinologists—doctors who treat problems related to the glands and hormones
Work with your
doctor to develop a treatment plan to fit your needs.
Anyone can get lupus:, but it most often affects women. Lupus is estimated to
affect 1 to almost 1.6 million Americans, 90 percent of whom are women. African-American women are three times more
likely to get lupus than Caucasian women and to suffer worse symptoms. According to the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), as many as one in every 250 African-American women has lupus.
Latino, Asian, and Native American
women have an increased incidence of lupus. In fact, lupus is twice as prevalent among Asian-American and Latino
women as it is among Caucasian women.
The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) reports that death rates from lupus are more than five times higher for women than for men and
more than three times higher for African Americans than for Caucasians.
What Are The Forms of
Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common form of lupus. Systemic
lupus can affect any part of your body, and can be mild or severe. Some of the more serious complications
involving major organ systems are:
inflammation of the kidneys (lupus nephritis)
increase in blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)
inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
of the arteries (coronary artery disease)
inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) and brain
inflammation of the brain’s blood vessels (neuropsychiatric lupus)
erythematosus is limited to your skin. Although cutaneous lupus can cause many types of rashes and lesions
(sores), the most common kind is raised, scaly and red, but not itchy; it is called a
rash because the areas of rash are shaped like disks, or circles. Another common example of cutaneous
lupus is the rash on the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose, known as the
rash. Hair loss
and changes in the pigment, or color, of the skin are also symptoms of cutaneous
Drug-induced lupus is aprescription drugs can create a lupus-like disease,
called. The drugs most commonly connected with drug-induced lupus are hydralazine (used to treat high blood
pressure or hypertension), procainamide (used to treat irregular heart rhythms), and isoniazid (a drug used
to treat tuberculosis). The lupus-like symptoms usually disappear within six months after the medications are
Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that affects babies of
women who have lupus. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts, but
all of these symptoms go away completely after several months with no lasting effects. A very small
percentage of babies with neonatal lupus may also have a serious heart defect; however, most babies of
mothers with lupus are entirely healthy.
The cause of lupus is not known.
Research suggests that genes play an important role, but genes alone do not determine who gets lupus. It is likely
that many factors trigger the disease.
However, scientists believe that hormones, genetics (heredity), and environment
are all involved.
Hormones regulate many of the body’s functions. In particular, the sex hormone
estrogen plays a role in lupus. Men and women both produce estrogen, but estrogen production is much greater in
females. However, it does not mean that estrogen, or any other hormone for that matter, causes
While no gene or group of genes has been proven to cause lupus, the disease does
appear in certain families. And, although lupus can develop in people with no lupus in their family history, there
are likely to be other autoimmune diseases in some family members. Certain ethnic groups (people of African, Asian,
Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Pacific Island descent) have a greater risk of developing lupus, which may
also be related to genes they have in common.
Your genes may increase the chance that you will develop lupus, but scientists
believe it takes some kind of environmental trigger to set off the illness or to bring on a flare, such
ultraviolet rays from the sun or from fluorescent light
drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun
penicillin or certain other antibiotic drugs
a cold or
a viral illness
anything that causes stress to the body, like surgery, an accident, or
Other unrelated factors can trigger your onset of lupus. Scientists have noted
some common triggers among many people who have lupus, including exposure to the sun, an infection, a medication
taken to treat an illness, being pregnant, and giving birth.
What Are The
Symptoms of Lupus?
Symptoms of lupus vary, but some of the most common symptoms of lupus are:
Pain or swelling in
Fever with no known
Red rashes, most often on the
Chest pain when taking a deep
Pale or purple fingers or
Sensitivity to the
Swelling in legs or around
Anemia (a decrease in red blood
Symptoms may come and go. The times
when a person is having symptoms are called flares. This can range from mild to severe. New symptoms may appear at any
How Is Lupus
There is no single test to diagnose lupus. It may take months or years
for a doctor to diagnose lupus. Your doctor may use many tools to make a diagnosis:
Are Some Facts About Lupus?
Lupus is not contagious.
not like or related to cancer.
not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency
United States alone it is believed that at least 1.5 million people -- women, men, teens, and children --
have lupus. More than 16,000 new cases are reported across the country each year.
strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children and teenagers develop lupus,
color are 2-3 times more likely to develop lupus.
all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.
What Are The Treatments For Lupus?
and appropriate treatment can help manage the symptoms of lupus and may lessen the chance of permanent damage to
organs or tissue.
Once a lupus diagnosis is established,
patients are assessed for damage to major organs (central nervous system, kidneys, heart, or lungs). Treatment
depends on the activity and extent of the disease, treatment can range from over the counter pain relievers and
anti-inflammatories to prescription medication, therapy, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes such as staying out
of the sun, wearing sunblock, and avoiding stress.
Possible Medications for
anti-inflammatory drugs, are used to relieve achy joints and arthritis in mild lupus when pain is limited
and organs are not affected.
Antimalarial drugs, such as
hydroxycholorquine, are often prescribed for arthritis or skin problems.
Corticosteroids, such as
prednisone, are used for major organ involvement. The dosage prescribed will depend on the type of organ
involvement, symptoms, and blood-test results.
Immunosuppressive agents, such
as azathioprine (Imuran), methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, hydroxychloroquine, and
mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), are potent drugs that help control the overactive but misdirected immune
system in lupus patients. They help limit damage to major organs and are closely monitored to counter the
potentially serious side effects and complications.
What You Can
During a flare: get plenty of
When lupus is in-active:
exercise to increase joint flexibility and muscle strength.
Use sunscreen daily that is 30+
which filters both UVA and UVB rays and wear sun-protective clothing, and avoid the
If rashes persist: check with
your doctor about using a cortisone cream.
Relieve stress: join support
groups, counseling, talking with friends, family, and doctors can be helpful.
For fever over 100 degrees F:
call your doctor.
Get regular checkups: these
usually include blood and urine tests.
Ask questions: when in doubt,
call your doctor.
Report any side effects or new
symptoms promptly: help your doctor know when a change in therapy might be needed.
What Are The Common Asked Questions About
You are not alone. Here are some of the common questions about
1. How did I get lupus?
The cause of lupus remains unknown. It is believed that lupus has a genetic
pre-disposition and something in the environment triggers the onset of the disease.
2. Is lupus contagious? Can you get it from
Lupus is not contagious. It cannot be
3. Is lupus a woman's disease? Do men and children get
Although lupus is mainly prevalent in
women, men can have lupus too. The ratio of women to men is 9 to 1, or 90%. Before puberty, boys and girls have the
same ratio; that is 1 to 1.
4. What are the symptoms of lupus?
Common symptoms of lupus are:
Painful or swollen
Red rash or color change on the
Chest pain upon deep
Pale or purple fingers or toes
from cold or stress (Raynaud's Phenomenon)
Sensitivity to the
Swelling (edema) in legs or
around eyes, etc.
These symptoms can come or go, and can
range from mild to severe. Most lupus patients have a combination of symptoms.
5. I have a lot of lupus-type symptoms. Where can I go to get
Many hospitals have rheumatology
clinics, or your primary care doctor can order specific laboratory tests for lupus.
6. I have all/most of the lupus symptoms, but my ANA is negative. Could I
still have lupus?
95% of people diagnosed
with lupus have positive ANAs. There are other blood tests more specific to people with lupus that can be used in
7. Can I have children if I have
Twenty years ago the answer
would have been "no." But today, successful pregnancy and childbirth are possible. It is wise for lupus
patients to be in the care of a high-risk ob/gyn.
8. How long can I live with lupus?
Most people with lupus can live a normal life span if they are properly treated,
follow their doctor's advice, and lead a healthy lifestyle.
9. Is lupus a progressive disease?
Not necessarily. With proper treatment, lupus is usually
10. Is lupus hereditary?
Heredity does seem to play a role. Ten percent of lupus patients have a
first-degree relative (sister, daughter, son, mother) or a second-degree relative (aunt, uncle, first cousin) with
lupus. Therefore, 90 percent of lupus patients DO NOT have relatives with lupus. Even in identical twins, when one
sibling has lupus and the other twin does not, it is believed there are environmental factors that play an
11. Do some groups of people get lupus more often than
Lupus primarily affects young women,
and the disease often starts between the ages of 15 and 44.
People of all ethnicities may get
lupus. Lupus is more prevalent in African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American women than in Caucasian
12. Will the prescription drug Plaquenil cause me to lose my eyesight
after a while?
No. Have your eyes checked
for a "baseline test" prior to Plaquenil use, and twice a year thereafter. If there is a change in your vision,
such as blurriness, immediately contact an opthalmologist.
13. I have lupus, but have no money. Where can I get medical
City hospitals and most other hospitals
can test and treat you on a sliding fee scale. There are also pharmaceutical companies that can help with
medicines. These companies are listed under Patient
14. Where can I get my medications? I don't have enough money to buy
Let your physician know that you are unable to purchase your prescriptions.
There are organizations that sponsor prescription drug patient assistance programs. Some patients are eligible for
Medicaid as well.
15. As a diagnosed lupus patient, am I eligible for
If your physician believes you
are unable to do any "substantial gainful employment," due to physical, mental, or emotional illness, then you may
be eligible for disability. You also will have to have worked for a required amount of time in the last 10 years
since diagnosis. The process to receive disability is long and stressful and may result in your contacting an
attorney who specializes in disability.
16. I have SSD (Social Security Disability), but I think I could go back to
work. Will I lose my benefits and my Medicare?
No. SSD allows you a nine-month trial work period where there is no limit
as to income earned. This trial period is not necessarily nine consecutive months. There is hope that
Medicare will be continued after this trial period.
17. Is there a special diet for people with
No. However, eating plenty of fresh
fruits and vegetables, eating chicken and fish over red meat, and drinking plenty of water are all highly
18. Is it safe for me to take vitamins, herbal supplements or try alternative
Before introducing any vitamins,
herbal supplements or trying alternative treatment, please consult your doctors.