Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system attack its tissues, causing inflammation, swelling, pain, and damage. With this chronic disease, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (like from the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these viruses and invaders. With Lupus your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
Lupus signs and symptoms include:
- Fatigue and fever
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion, memory loss
It is estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher – there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus. This disease strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too.