Facts / Stats

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune (AW-toe-ih-MYOON) disease. Think of your body’s immune system like an army with hundreds of soldiers. The immune system’s job is to fight foreign substances in the body, like germs and viruses. But in autoimmune diseases, the immune system is out of control. It not only attacks germs, but healthy tissue as well.

You can’t catch lupus from another person. It isn’t cancer, and it isn’t related to AIDS.

Lupus is a disease that can affect many parts of the body. Everyone reacts differently. One person with lupus may have swollen knees and fever. Another person may be tired all the time or have kidney trouble. Someone else may have rashes that come and go. Lupus can involve the joints, the skin, the kidneys, the lungs, the heart, the brain, and the nervous system. If you have lupus, it may affect two or three parts of your body. Usually, one patient doesn’t experience all the possible symptoms. Lupus can vary from mild to severe, and usually alternates between periods of activity and periods when the disease is mostly quiet.

Most importantly, lupus is a manageable disease. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the disease is now more manageable than in years past. People with lupus are living full and productive lives. So if you suspect you may have or be at risk for lupus, take action and see your doctor right away. That’s the only way to help manage it. Studies have shown that patients who are informed and involved in their own care:

  • Have less pain
  • Make fewer visits to the doctor
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Remain more active

Did you know:

  • Lupus is 6-10 times more likely to be found in women than in men?
  • Lupus affects women of color (African Americans, Hispanic Americans/Latinas, Asian Americans, and Native Americans) 2-3 times more often than women of European descent?
  • Although lupus can affect men and women, more than 90 percent of people with lupus are women between the ages of 15 and 45?
  • Both African Americans and Hispanic Americans/Latinas tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more symptoms at diagnosis (including kidney problems)?
  • African American lupus patients have more seizures and strokes, while Hispanic American/Latina patients have more heart problems? (We don’t understand why some people seem to have more problems with lupus than others.)