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What is Lupus?

Lupus is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs leading to inflammation and damage. Sites of the body afflicted most commonly are the blood cells, skin, brain, joint, lungs, heart, kidneys. Thus, the disease is considered a systemic (throughout the body), autoimmune disease.

Why You Should Care:

  • Approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus cases: 70% of total lupus cases.
  • Of individuals diagnosed with lupus, 90% are women.
  • Eighty percent of people develop lupus between 15 and 45 years of age.
  • Lupus is two to three times more prevalent among people of color.
  • Chance of a parent or sibling having or developing lupus: 20%.


The majority of patients with lupus have a mild form characterized by episodic appearance and disappearance of the signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Rashes: Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body.
  • Skin lesions: Appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity).
  • Discoloration of Fingers and toes: Digits turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud's phenomenon).
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss


It's likely that lupus results from a combination of your genetics and your environment. Some potential triggers include:

  • Sunlight: Exposure to the sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response in susceptible people.
  • Infections
  • Genetics
  • Medications: Certain types of medications may cause the disease in susceptible individuals and may disappear once medication is stopped.

Risk Factors:

Factors that may increase your risk of lupus include:

  • Your sex: Women are more affected than men.
  • Age: Lupus affects people of all ages.
  • Race: More common in African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.


Treatment for lupus depends upon the signs and symptoms. The most commonly used medications used to control lupus include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), may be used to treat pain, swelling and fever associated with lupus.
  • Antimalarial drugs: Medications such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), affect the immune system and can help decrease the risk of lupus flares.
  • Corticosteroids: Prednisone and other types of corticosteroids can counter the inflammation of lupus. High doses of steroids such as methylprednisolone (A-Methapred, Medrol) are often used to control serious disease that involves the kidneys and brain.
  • Immunosuppressants: Drugs that suppress the immune system may be helpful in serious cases of lupus. Examples include azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan), mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept) and methotrexate (Trexall).
  • Biologics:  A different type of medication, belimumab (Benlysta) administered intravenously, also reduces lupus symptoms in some people.
  • Rituximab (Rituxan): Can be beneficial in cases of resistant lupus.


Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many areas of your body. Some of the systems affected are:

  • Kidney: Kidney failure.
  • Brain and central nervous system: If your brain is affected by lupus, you may experience headaches, dizziness, behavior changes, vision problems, communication difficulties, memory problems and even strokes or seizures.
  • Blood Vessels Vasculitis: inflammation of the blood vessels.
  • Blood: Anemia and an Increased risk of bleeding.
  • Lungs:  pleurisy, bleeding into lungs, and pneumonia also are possible.
  • Heart: cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, pericarditis.
  • Infection: People with lupus are more vulnerable to infection.
  • Cancer: Having lupus appears to increase your risk of cancer.
  • Bone tissue death (avascular necrosis): Microfractures of bone.
  • Pregnancy complications: Women with lupus have an increased risk of miscarriage. (preeclampsia) and preterm birth.
  • Joints: It is characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling and redness and can limit movement such as in the shoulders or knees. 
  • Source: Mayo Clinic


* CIS does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content is for informational purposes only. 

Dr. Eva Agaiby

President, Director of Clinical Trials & Regulatory Affairs

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Director of Marketing & Business Development

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