Lupus: Get informed

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease. The immune system recognizes the cells of certain tissues as foreign and produces antibodies towards these cells. This disease is also called systemic lupus erythematosus, because it can affect all of the organs in a non-specific way. Lupus may also manifest at the joint, cardiac, bone, respiratory, digestive, renal or even dermatological level. 

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Lupus: What is it?

The exact causes of lupus remain unknown to this day. 

There are various types of lupus: 
- Discoid lupus, which is characterized by the presence of chronic eruptions on the face, the cheekbones, and even the scalp. The eruptions may burst and scar and there may be hair loss, which makes everyday life difficult for the patient. 
- Induced lupus is generally triggered as a side effect to taking a medication. This form of lupus normally disappears when the patient stops taking the medication.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus, more commonly known as SLE, is a pathology in which the immune system attacks the body’s own substances.
 
It is for this reason that it is difficult to diagnose lupus and the diagnosis often comes at a late stage, with the patient’s disease progressing for several years before being treated.
It is called ‘erythematosus’ due to the red skin eruption (from the Greek word ‘eruthros’ for red), which appears in patients suffering from lupus, and ‘systemic’ because it can affect several organs.

SLE evolves over time

Just like the symptoms, the progression of lupus varies from one person to another and it is difficult to predict, as the illness progresses in the form of flare-ups.
Between these flare-ups, the symptoms improve: this is known as remission. Unfortunately, it is impossible to known when a future flare-up of lupus will occur, nor is it possible to know how intense it will be or how long it will last.
 
In general, the prognosis is better when the disease develops later in life, and not in infancy or adolescence.
 
For more information visit the SLE/Lupus Forum

Article drafted under the supervision of Prof. Zahir Amoura, Head of Internal Medicine Department 2, Technical Coordinator at the ‘Centre National de Référence du Lupus’ in Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. 
 
Sources: Orphanet (July 2008)

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