April 24, 2017

Answers FAQ

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP, on February 13, 2017

Take the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
Test your Knowledge!

Q:Lupus is an infection. True or False?

A:False.

Lupus, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), is not an infectious disease but an autoimmune disorder. It is a chronic condition in which the body attacks in own cells and tissues, resulting in inflammation of the skin, joints, blood vessels, brain, lungs, and kidneys.

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Q:Men are more affected by lupus than women. True or False?

A:False.

90% of all cases of lupus are diagnosed in women. Women ages 15 to 44 years are at the greatest risk of developing the disease.

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Q:Lupus is more prevalent that which other diseases?

A:True.

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates about 1.5 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have some form of lupus, making it more prevalent than HIV, AIDS, sickle cell anemia, and multiple sclerosis combined.

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Q:What are some symptoms of lupus?

A:Symptoms of lupus range widely, and may come and go.

The most common symptoms and signs of lupus include:
- Fatigue
- Joint pain and swelling
- Sun sensitivity
- Fingers or toes turn white and/or blue in the cold (Raynaud's phenomenon)
- Fever
- Hair loss
- Headaches
- Anemia
- Swelling in the extremities or around eyes
- Butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose
- Ulcers in the nose or mouth
- Pain in the chest when breathing deeply
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Inflammation of the kidneys (Lupus Nephritis)

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Q:What is a lupus flare, and how long do flares last?

A:A flare is when symptoms of a chronic disease are present.

During a lupus flare, symptoms may range from mild to debilitating. A mild flare may involve a rash; a moderate flare may involve joint or muscle pain or severe fatigue; and a severe flare could be debilitating, affecting the organs and requiring medical attention. A flare occurs when the immune system is triggered. Some common triggers for lupus flares include infections, stress, pregnancy, sunlight, and starting or stopping a new medication. Lupus flares are unpredictable and there is no way to tell how long they will last.

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Q:Unlike arthritis, there is only one form of lupus. True or False?

A:False.
There are several types of lupus. Lupus generally refers to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of the disease, comprising about 70% of all cases. Other types of lupus include:
- Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) – limited to the skin, affects about 10% of people with lupus, has several subtypes:

  • Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE)
  • Acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus
    • Chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus – has several subtypes:
    • Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)
    • Lupus erythematous panniculitis/profundus
    • Lupus tumidus
    • Chilblain lupus
  • Drug-induced lupus – affects about 10% of people with lupus, caused by certain prescription drugs, rarely affects organs
  • Neonatal lupus – a rare condition and not a true form of lupus; affects infants of women who have lupus and is caused by antibodies from the mother that act on the infant in utero
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    Q:People do not die from lupus. True or False?

    A:False.

    Most people diagnosed with lupus can live a normal life span due to improvements in diagnosis and treatment. About 10 to 15 percent of people with lupus die due to complications. Heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in people with lupus. Other causes of premature death in patients with lupus include kidney failure and infections.

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    Q:As seen in many patients with lupus, the hallmark "butterfly rash" appears where on the body?

    A:Across the nose and cheeks. Also called the "malar rash," the "butterfly rash" typically seen in lupus appears across the nose and cheeks in a butterfly-shape. Without itching or pain, it is generally reddish. The rash is not scaly, and has sharp definition. Note: The "butterfly rash" is also seen with rosacea.

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