Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) is a chronic autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems, including the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, lungs, intestines and blood vessels.
Under normal circumstances, the body’s immune system protects the body against “foreign” invaders like viruses, bacteria and parasites. In lupus, the immune system malfunctions and produces antibodies and cells which attack its own organs – hence lupus is known as an “autoimmune” disease. The reason why this happens is unknown, but are believed to be linked to environment (exposure to sunlight, stress or infection), genetic and hormonal factors.
Lupus occurs more frequently in women than in men. Asians and Afro-Americans are more prone to develop lupus than Caucasians and the disorder is more severe in these ethnic groups.
Four types of Lupus exist:
The outlook for people with lupus was once grim, but diagnosis and treatment of the disorder has improved tremendously in recent years. With early diagnosis and treatment, most people with lupus can lead normal, active lives.