Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by inflammation in multiple organ systems, frequently involving skin, joints, and the kidneys. Lupus most commonly affects women between the ages of 20 and 40 years. The Lupus Foundation estimates that up to 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with lupus.
Symptoms: Lupus can affect any part of the body but most people experience symptoms in only a few organs. The most prevalent symptoms of lupus include achy joints, fever, arthritis, extreme fatigue, skin rashes and anemia. Symptoms also include, pain in the chest, butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, sun or light sensitivity, hair loss, abnormal blood-clotting problems, Raynaud's Phenomenon (fingers turning white and/or blue in the cold), seizures and ulcers in the nose and mouth.
Diagnosis: A diagnosis may be difficult because many of the symptoms are similar to other diseases. To help doctors diagnose lupus, the American College of Rheumatology has issued a list of symptoms to distinguish lupus from other diseases. The individual should have four or more of the symptoms to confirm a diagnosis of lupus.
Risk factors: A number of environmental factors play a critical role in triggering lupus. Those include infection, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain drugs and hormones. While there is no known gene or genes thought to cause lupus, the disease is known to occur within families. Lupus can occur at any age and is 10-15 times more frequent among adult women. The disease shows an increase of symptoms before menstrual periods and during pregnancy, which supports the belief that the hormone estrogen may play a role in the disease.