What is Lupus?

General features of Lupus

It should be made clear that although Lupus is a complicated illness, capable of affecting almost every part of the body, the majority of patients suffer from only a small number of the long list of features described.

Few have heard of lupus, yet worldwide it is more common than leukaemia, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. Some 30,000 people have the disease in the UK, of whom 90% are women. However, men and young children can also have lupus.

Lupus is a condition whereby the body's defence mechanism goes into overdrive and starts to attack itself. The symptoms are many and varied and the illness seems to mimic other diseases. This gives rise to difficulty in diagnosis and the condition can be overlooked, sometimes for years, unless the GP or consultant is alert to lupus.

The name "lupus" comes from the Latin meaning wolf and refers to the erythematous red ulcerations on the face. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) did not acquire its name until the middle of the 19th century. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease, characterised by exacerbations and remissions. Although there is no cure, this does not mean it cannot be controlled. Sometimes, patients find in their forties and fifties that their symptoms settle and they can come off all therapy. Although people of any age can suffer from lupus, women outnumber men by nine to one. It is a disease of young women, the peak age being 15 to 40 years.


. . . but can be triggered:


The most common features are:

Other features include:

It is important that patients should only read literature about Lupus that is not more than five years old. This is because, until recently, Lupus was widely regarded by doctors as a dreaded disease, progressing to kidney disease and usually fatal. Patients were warned against pregnancy.


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