You Are At: AllSands Home > Health > Diseases > What is lupus?
Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus, or as it's commonly referred to, lupus, is an autoimmune disease that affects as many as 2 to 4 million people. This is more people than are affected by multiple sclerosis, Lou Gerig's Disease, and cerebral palsy combined.

In autoimmune diseases, the body's defense against infection, the immune system, malfunctions. In a healthy person, the immune system knows the body's cells as "self" and cells like bacteria and viruses as "invaders". It creates cells to fight the "invaders". These "warriors", called antigens, attack and destroy the "invaders", leaving the body infection-free. With lupus, a body's immune system becomes unable to tell the difference between "self" and "invader" and creates antigens to attack and destroy the body's own cells. Any organ or system is vulnerable to these renegade antigens, but most frequently attacked are the joints, skin, kidneys and lungs. Death can occur from severe kidney, lung or brain involvement.

Doctors are forced to rely on symptoms. The most frequent symptoms of lupus are joint pain, severe fatigue, hair loss, pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs), blood disorders, photosensitivity, and a distinctive, red, raised rash that most commonly appears on the cheeks, across the bridge of the nose, and above the eyes. This "butterfly" rash is a classic sign of the disease, and is often overlooked by patients as sunburn or an allergic reaction.

If you have any of these symptoms, ask your doctor about the possibility of lupus. Ask for the tests that might indicate an autoimmune disease. Ask for a referral to a rheumatologist, who specializes in lupus and other rheumatoid diseases. Ask, ask, ask! Lupus is frequently misdiagnosed because of ignorance. Early detection and treatment is our best weapon against this disease! Don't let your doctor put you off if you have any of the above listed symptoms with a "Well, it's probably just a sign of aging." It's in your best interest to be checked, before becoming a statistic. Remember: No one ever said, "If only I'd gotten checked later!"