What is Lupus?

What is Lupus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus or SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which connective tissues and organs can be attacked by the body’s own immune system, causing a variety of symptoms that include joint pain and swelling, fever, fatigue, skin rashes, kidney inflammation and failure, low blood counts, and neurological symptoms. Systemic lupus is part of a spectrum of related lupus conditions, including cutaneous (skin-only) lupus, autoimmune blood count abnormalities, and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, a blood clotting disorder. Patients with lupus may differ in which organs are affected, and to what extent.

For mild cases, lupus treatment may be minimal, but for other patients, the disease may cause life-threatening health problems and require treatment with medications that suppress the immune system.

Systemic lupus erythematosus affects approximately 1/2000 people in the U.S., while related conditions affect many more. Most people who develop systemic lupus are between the ages of 15 and 45. For unknown reasons, the disease affects approximately nine times more females than males. Lupus also is more common among individuals of African American, Hispanic and Native American descent.

Lupus is diagnosed by a constellation of laboratory tests, clinical symptoms and physical examination findings. There is no single blood test that alone is sufficient to diagnose lupus. While there is no cure for systemic lupus, effective treatment can manage and control the symptoms. State-of-the-art lupus care is found at the Lupus Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), where comprehensive expert medical care ensures that lupus patients live full and healthy lives.

To schedule an appointment, make a referral, or learn more about the consultative services at the BWH Lupus Center, please call (617) 732-5515 or fax us your medical information at (617) 732-5766. 

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