WebMD explains lupus, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and tips for better quality of life. Responsive Channel Rheumatoid arthritis lupus 3 Column Template_091e9c5e813ec926_tmodules_css_535.
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Normally, the immune system protects the body from infection. In lupus, however, the immune system inappropriately attacks tissues in various parts of the body. This abnormal activity leads to tissue damage and illness. How do you get lupus, a disease that attacks your immune system? And what can you do about it?
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, approximately 1. 5 million people in the U. People of African, Asian, and Native American descent are more likely to develop lupus than are Caucasians. 1 in 250 people may develop lupus.
Some people have just a few symptoms, while others have many. In addition, there are many different symptoms of lupus because the disease can affect any part of the body. People with lupus also develop specific problems when the immune system attacks a particular organ or area in the body. Some people with lupus have a red rash over their cheeks and the bridge of their nose — called a «butterfly» or malar rash. One particular type of lupus that generally affects only the skin is called «discoid lupus.
Skin rashes are usually aggravated by sunlight. A common lupus rash called subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus is often worse after exposure to the sun. This type of rash can affect the arms, legs, and torso. There may be pain, with or without swelling.
Stiffness and pain may be particularly evident in the morning. Fortunately, the arthritis usually is not crippling. Blood involvement can occur with or without other symptoms. Many patients do not have symptoms from low blood counts, however, so it is important for people with lupus to have periodic blood tests in order to detect any problems. These antibodies are abnormal proteins that may increase the tendency of the blood to clot. Blood can be tested for these antibodies.
The heart valves and the lung itself can also be affected by lupus, resulting in shortness of breath. However, there appears to be something that triggers the immune system to attack various areas of the body. That’s why suppressing the immune system is one of the main forms of treatment. Finding the cause is the object of major research efforts.
Female hormones are believed to play a role in the development of lupus because women are affected by lupus much more often than men. This is especially true of women during their reproductive years, a time when hormone levels are highest. The observation that lupus may affect more than one member of the same family has raised the possibility that the tendency to develop lupus may be inherited. Having such a tendency, however, does not predict that a relative will develop lupus.