Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood, lungs, kidneys, and other organs. It is also known as an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system loses the ability to differentiate between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. As a result, the immune system produces antibodies directed against itself which leads to inflammation, injury to tissues, and pain. In some persons with lupus, the disease is mild, only affecting a few organs, while in others, the disease can cause serious, potentially life-threatening problems. More than 16,000 Americans develop lupus each year with an estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million already having been diagnosed. While it can occur at any age and in either sex, lupus is called the "woman's disease" because it occurs 10-15 times more frequently in adult females.
There are three different types of lupus: discoid, systemic, and drug-induced. This paper will focus on systemic. Systemic lupus is generally more severe than discoid and can affect almost any organ or system of the body permanently and progressively. The disease alternates between periods of "remission" when few, if any, symptoms are experienced to periods of "flare" when the disease is more active. Possible indications of an approaching flare are increased fatigue, pain, rash, fever, stomach discomfort, headache, and dizziness. The cause of lupus itself is unknown, but likely involves the interaction of many physical and psychological factors.