Lupus

Lupus is a disease of the immune system. Normally, the immune system protects the body by making antibodies to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other foreign substances. When the immune system is not working normally, it can make antibodies directed against itself. These antibodies are called autoantibodies ("auto" meaning self). They lead to pain, inflammation, and other symptoms of lupus. Diseases like lupus that produce these antibodies are called autoimmune diseases.

Because it has so many different and varying symptoms, lupus is difficult to define. The important point to remember is that lupus does not have to define the individual. Lupus can be effectively treated and most people who have the disease can lead active lives.

Anyone can get lupus, but it is most common among girls and women. More than 90 percent of people with lupus are female.

In this country, lupus is more likely to occur among people who are African-American, Hispanic-Latino and Native American. African-Americans and Hispanic-Latinos tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more severe symptoms than white Americans.

Between 1.5 million and 2 million Americans, including 5,000 to 10,000 children, have some form of lupus, according to estimates from the Lupus Foundation of America. The actual number may be higher.

Lupus usually develops between the ages of 12 and 44, but it can occur at any age.


Last Updated 12/2013