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Facts About Lupus

By — One of many Immune System blogs on


Out of every 185 Americans, one will have lupus. The world-wide incidence is roughly five million. Nine out of ten of those who develop the disease are women in their child-bearing years. Most of these women are Native American, Asian, Latina, or African American. One out of every five women have the antibody markers found in lupus patients, although most never go on to develop the disease. Lupus is not confined to humans, several animal species can also get lupus.


Lupus has both a genetic and an environmental component. Genetics seem to increase the susceptibility of individuals, but only about five percent of the children of lupus patients go on to develop the disease, indicating that it takes an environmental event to trigger the onset of the disease. Overexposure to sunlight, trauma, stress, certain drugs, and infections have all been linked to the onset of the disease. Later in the course of the disease, these factors can trigger flare-ups of lupus.


In people with lupus, the immune system becomes confused and starts attacking the body. Along with damaging the organs that are targeted by this immune response, it also leaves the patient open to infections, because the immune-system is so busy attacking itself and producing antibodies against itself that it does not have the resources to fight off foreign matter. Thus the damage caused by lupus is two-fold: the initial damage caused by the immune-system's attack on the body and the secondary damage caused by rampant infections.


Lupus patients experience fatigue, joint-pain, inflammation, photo-sensitivity (sensitivity to light) and kidney problems. There can also be psychological and cognitive problems. One of the often overlooked problems that lupus patients struggle with is memory loss. Many experience difficulties with short-term memory. This can have a profound impact on day-to-day activities. In addition, many also struggle with depression.


About one third of patients who suffer from lupus also have fibromyalgia, a syndrome that is characterized by extreme fatigue and pain throughout the body.


The five year survival rate for lupus used to be just fifty percent, but with advances in treatment and management, today eighty to ninety percent of patients can have a normal lifespan. However, most require medications for the rest of their lives.


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