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Lupus Awareness

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What is Lupus? 

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that triggers inflammation in different tissues of the body. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.1

  • What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lupus?
  • Different Types of Lupus
  • What Can Trigger Flare-Ups of Lupus?
  • Treating and Managing Lupus
  • Incidence and Prevalence of Lupus
  • Mortality
  • Annual Cost of Lupus
  • References

Lupus symptoms vary from one person to another. Among some people, symptoms come and go. Different symptoms may also appear at different times over the course of the disease. The most common signs and symptoms of lupus include:

  • Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands and/or around eyes
  • Chest pain during deep breathing
  • Sun or light sensitivity
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting

Many of these symptoms mimic those of other connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and sjögren’s syndrome.2

There are several forms of lupus. Learn more about each type below.

  1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and serious form of lupus. SLE is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues and causes widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected areas. SLE affects the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels.1
  2. Drug-Induced Lupus Erythematosus (DILE) is similar to SLE, but occurs as the result of an overreaction to certain medications. Symptoms usually occur 3 to 6 months after starting a medication, and disappear once the medicine is stopped.1
  3. Cutaneous Lupus is lupus that affects the skin in the form of a rash or lesions. This type of lupus can occur on any part of the body, but usually appears where the skin is exposed to sunlight.1
  4. Neonatal lupus occurs when an infant passively acquires auto-antibodies from a mother with SLE. The skin, liver, and blood problems resolve by 6 months, but the most serious sign—congenital heart block—requires a pacemaker and has a mortality rate of about 20%.1

Known triggers of lupus can include ultraviolent rays from the sun and fluorescent light bulbs; infections, colds, or viral illnesses; exhaustion or emotional stress; and anything that causes physical stress to the body, such as surgery, injury, pregnancy and childbirth.2

There is no known cure for lupus; however, medical interventions and lifestyle changes can help patients living with lupus treat and manage symptoms.

It is estimated that at least 1.5 million Americans are living with some form of lupus; however, the actual number may be higher.1 Each year more than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported across the country.3 Although women of childbearing age are more likely to develop lupus, men, children, and teenagers can develop lupus, too.3 Most people with lupus develop the disease between the ages of 15-44.3  Non-Hispanic Whites are less likely to develop lupus compared to all other racial/ethnic groups.3

Using death certificates for US residents, SLE was identified as the underlying cause of death for an average of 1,034 deaths from 2010–2014. SLE was identified as a contributing cause of death (one of multiple causes of death, including underlying cause of death) for an average of 1,803 deaths during that 4-year-period.1

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, it is believed that between 10-15 percent of people with lupus will die prematurely due to complications of lupus.2

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, the average annual direct health care cost of patients with lupus was $12,643 in 2008.2

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2017
  2. Lupus Foundation of America, 2016,  
  3. National Resource Center on Lupus, 2017