What is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus — a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks — occurs in many, but not all cases of lupus.

Symptoms

No two cases of lupus are exactly alike. Signs and symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly. They may be mild or severe, and may be temporary or permanent. Most people with lupus have mild disease characterized by episodes (called flares) when signs and symptoms get worse for a while, then improve or even disappear completely for a time.

The signs and symptoms of lupus will depend on which body systems are affected, with the most common including:

  • Fatigue and fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion, and memory loss

Treatment Options

While there’s no cure for lupus, treatments can help control symptoms. Today, physicians treat lupus using a wide variety of medicines, ranging in strength from mild to extremely strong. Prescribed medications will usually change during a person’s lifetime with lupus.

The medications most commonly used to control lupus include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Antimalarial drugs.
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Immunosuppressants.

We encourage you visit the Lupus Foundation to become more knowledgeable about your condition. The knowledge of your disorder helps you in understanding the disorder and its treatment. Each person is different so what applies to one patient may not apply to another. Reading and understanding about your disorder will help you be better prepared to discuss the disorder with your physician and understand the options that are available to help you. These links are not connected to Albuquerque Center for Rheumatology and are offered for your information only.