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The Facts Put Simply

Learn About Lupus (SLE) and Equip Yourself to Fight Back!

Subject matter Quick Links for this page…

1) What Is Lupus?
2) Lupus Facts
3) Who is at risk to get Lupus?
4) Causes of Lupus
5) Symptoms of Lupus
6) What can you do to prevent Lupus?
7) What can you do to combat Lupus?

What Is Lupus?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder which may affect many organ systems including the skin, joints and internal organs.

The disease may be mild or severe and life-threatening.

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Lupus facts:

• SLE (lupus) is an Autoimmune Disease.
Autoimmune Disease - Normally, the immune system helps protect the body from harmful substances, but in patients with an autoimmune disease, the immune system can't tell the difference between harmful substances and healthy ones. The result is an overactive immune response that attacks otherwise healthy cells and tissue. This leads to chronic (long-term) inflammation.
• SLE may be mild (symptoms come & go) or severe enough to cause death
• The condition may affect one organ or body system at first and then migrate to others.
• Most frequently affected joints are the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees.
• There is no cure for Lupus
• Women with SLE who become pregnant are often able to carry the pregnancy safely to term and deliver normal infants, as long as there is no severe kidney or heart disease present and the SLE is being treated appropriately.
• The 10-year survival rate for lupus patients is greater than 85%.
• People with severe involvement of the brain, lungs, heart, and kidney do worse than others in terms of overall survival and disability.

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Who is at risk to get Lupus?

• African-Americans and Asians are disproportionately affected
• SLE affects nine times as many women as men
• It may occur at any age, but appears most often in people between the ages of 10 and 50 years

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Causes of Lupus

• The underlying cause of autoimmune diseases such as Lupus is not fully known. Some researchers think autoimmune diseases occur after infection with an organism that looks like certain proteins in the body. The proteins are later mistaken for the organism and wrongly targeted for attack by the body's immune system.
• SLE may also be caused by certain drugs.

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Symptoms of Lupus

• Almost all people with SLE have joint pain and most develop arthritis
• Inflammation of various parts of the heart may occur
• Fever
• Fatigue
• General discomfort, uneasiness or ill feeling (malaise)
• Skin rash - a "butterfly" rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose affects about half of those with SLE. The rash gets worse when in sunlight. The rash may also be widespread.
• Sensitivity to sunlight
• Joint pain and swelling
• Arthritis
• Swollen glands
• Muscle aches
• Nausea and vomiting
• Pleurisy (causes chest pain)
• Pleural effusions
• Seizures
• Psychosis

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
• Blood in the urine
• Coughing up blood
• Nosebleed
• Swallowing difficulty
• Skin color is patchy
• Red spots on skin
• Fingers that change color upon pressure or in the cold
• Numbness and tingling
• Mouth sores
• Hair loss
• Abdominal pain
• Visual disturbance
• Blood disorders, including blood clots

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What can you do to prevent Lupus?

• There is no cure for SLE. Treatment is aimed at controlling symptoms

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What can you do to combat Lupus?

• As there are a wide range of symptoms, your individual symptoms will determine your treatment
• Mild disease that involves a rash, headaches, fever, arthritis, pleurisy, and pericarditis requires little therapy
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are used to treat arthritis and pleurisy
• Corticosteroid creams are used to treat skin rashes
• An anti-malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine) and low dose corticosteroids are sometimes used for skin and arthritis symptoms
• You should wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen when in the sun
• Corticosteroids or medications to decrease the immune system response may be prescribed to control the various symptoms
• Some health care professionals use cytotoxic drugs (drugs that block cell growth) to treat people who do not respond well to corticosteroids or who must use high doses of corticosteroids

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