Lupus Fact Sheet

DEFINITION OF LUPUS
• Lupus is a chronic (lifelong) autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and tissue damage to virtually every organ system in the body. There are several forms of lupus.
• In people with lupus, the immune system loses its ability to distinguish between foreign substances, called antigens, and the body’s own cells and tissue. The immune system then makes proteins, called antibodies, that are directed against “self” which causes inflammation.
• Lupus can affect many parts of the body, including the skin, joints, blood and blood vessels, heart, lungs, kidneys and brain.
• The health effects of lupus range from mild to life-threatening and the disease vacillates between periods of increased activity, called flares, and periods of remission.

STATISTICS AND DEMOGRAPHICS
• Approximately 1.5 million Americans and more than five million individuals worldwide have a form of lupus.
• Ninety percent of the people with lupus are women. Eight of ten new cases of lupus develop among women of childbearing age; however, women of all ages as well as men and children develop the disease.
• Lupus is two to three times more common among African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians – a disparity that remains unexplained.

CAUSES OF LUPUS

• Researchers do not know the exact causes of lupus. However, lupus is NOT infectious.
• While researchers believe there is a genetic predisposition to the disease, it is known that certain environmental factors also play a role in triggering lupus. These factors include infections, antibiotics, ultraviolet light, extreme stress, certain drugs, and hormones. Hormonal factors may explain why lupus occurs more frequently in females than in males.

• Although lupus is known to occur in families, researchers have not identified a specific gene or genes believed responsible for the disease.

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