What is lupus? Lupus is a chronic and presently incurable illness of the immune system. When most people use the term ‘lupus’ they are usually referring to systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) which is a type of lupus that can affect any body tissue and organ.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition which means that it is caused by problems with the immune system. Rather than just fighting viruses, bacteria and infection by producing antibodies, your body starts to attack and destroy healthy cells, tissues and organs.
As with other more common autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and coeliacs disease, it is thought that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are responsible for triggering the onset of lupus in certain people.
The symptoms of lupus can be many and varied and can range from mild to severe. Many people will experience long periods of time with few or no symptoms and then experience a sudden flare up when their symptoms can become particularly severe. Even mild cases of lupus can have a considerable impact on a person’s quality of life, particularly because they include chronic fatigue, which can be distressing and cause feelings of depression and anxiety. The symptoms of lupus often mimic other diseases making it difficult to diagnose. Many lupus patients report months or years of suffering symptoms before they are properly diagnosed.
Lupus is a lifelong condition but with good support from healthcare professionals, friends and family it is possible to effectively manage the condition.
Lupus can be a difficult condition to diagnose. This is because the symptoms of lupus are sometimes very similar to a number of other conditions, most of which are far more common than lupus. Lupus may also be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Your symptoms may also change over time. For example, there may be periods where your symptoms are not very noticeable, or times when they ‘flare-up’ and become more severe.
There is currently no cure for lupus. However, there are treatments which can help to ease and manage your symptoms, minimising the effect that the condition has on your daily life.
The exact cause of autoimmune conditions such as lupus is unknown. It is thought that some people are genetically predisposed to developing the condition and that it can be triggered by an event, illness or environmental influence.
Although genetics may play a part in the development of lupus and studies have shown that it can run in families, it doesn’t mean that if you have a parent or sibling with lupus that you will necessarily develop it.
The Hibbs Lupus Trust information advice line provides support and information. Call us on FREEPHONE 0800 633 5118 Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Outside of these hours please email us.