The immune systems of people who have lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, are unable to distinguish between foreign antigens and the person’s own body. As a result, the immune system creates antibodies that attack otherwise healthy tissues and organs. The resulting inflammation can cause permanent damage to almost any body part, including the blood, brain, heart, joints, kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin.
Lupus affects many more women than men. The most common symptoms are fever, joint and muscle pain, and rashes. However, because lupus can affect so many different body parts, there are many possible symptoms. There is also no simple, definitive test for diagnosis. Unfortunately, the disease can often be mistaken for other illnesses for months or even years.
Although there is no cure for this chronic autoimmune disease, treatment can make life much more comfortable for people with lupus. They are often prescribed an anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drug, which may help shorten or even prevent flair-ups. Steroids may be prescribed, but are usually avoided because of the extent of their side effects. Doctors also focus on treating the disease’s symptoms.