Lupus is a chronic (long-term) disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system — the body system that usually fights infections — attacks healthy tissue instead.
Lupus most commonly affects your:
- Internal organs, like your kidneys and heart
Because lupus can affect so many different parts of the body, it can cause a lot of different symptoms. And many people with lupus don’t have all the symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of lupus
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)
What are the types of lupus?
When people talk about lupus, they’re usually talking about systemic lupus. But there are four kinds of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus
- Cutaneous lupus, 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
Who is at risk for developing lupus?
Anyone can develop lupus. But certain people are at higher risk for lupus, including:
- Women ages 15 to 44
- Certain racial or ethnic groups — including people who are African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander
- People who have a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease
What causes lupus?
No one knows what causes lupus — but lupus and other autoimmune diseases do run in families. Experts also think it may develop in response to certain hormones (like estrogen) or environmental triggers. An environmental trigger is something outside the body that can bring on symptoms of lupus — or make them worse.
Lupus is not contagious—you can’t “catch” lupus or give it to someone else.
What are the early symptoms of lupus?
There is no one first sign or symptom of lupus. The early signs and symptoms of lupus are generally the same as the symptoms of lupus, including extreme fatigue, joint pain, or a butterfly rash. However, the early signs vary widely from person to person.
Remember May is Lupus Awareness Month!