Lupus is an autoimmune disease — a condition in which the body mistakes its own healthy tissues as foreign invaders. As a result, the body wrongly attacks its own cells, which leads to inflammation and damage to various body tissues. Lupus can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.
Lupus affects one out of every 185 Americans, with more than 16,000 people developing the condition each year. Although lupus can occur at any age and in both men and women, 90 percent of those diagnosed with lupus are female. In addition, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans are at an increased risk. The cause of the disorder is unknown. However, research indicates that a combination of genetic, environmental and possibly hormonal factors are involved.
At UCSF Medical Center experts diagnose and treat patients with lupus. Although there is no cure for lupus, effective treatment can greatly reduce symptoms and help maintain normal body functions.
Although the severity and range of symptoms of lupus differ for each person, common symptoms include:
Your doctor will begin by recording your complete medical history, including a description of your symptoms. You also will undergo a physical examination to check for any physical signs of the disease. In order to make a definitive diagnosis of lupus a number of tests may be used, including the following:
There is currently no cure for lupus. However, for most people, effective treatment can greatly reduce symptoms and help maintain normal body functions. Treatment often includes:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.