What Is Lupus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus, or "lupus" for short, is an autoimmune disease--
a disease in which the body's own immune system attacks itself. It is nine
times as common in women as men, and about twice as common in black women as
in white women. Lupus can often be fatal. Increasingly, however, patients
who are diagnosed and treated early are living a normal life span and enjoying
The causes of lupus are unknown but believed to be genetic. Interestingly,
about 10% of women with lupus develop it while they are pregnant or postpartum;
in part this is because the onset of lupus is most common in the 20's and 30's.
Women with a family history of autoimmune diseases in general also have an increased
risk of lupus. Certain medications and viruses may also precipitate lupus.
Of course, cigarette smoking is bad for just about everything, and lupus is
The symptoms of lupus are generally vague: often women will say they just
don't feel right. Profound fatigue, rash, early morning joint pain, chest pain,
memory lapses, swelling, and dramatic sun sensitivity are also common.
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Created: 4/27/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.