Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting about 1.5 million Americans, with an estimated 16,000 newly diagnosed each year. The most common form of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The chronic inflammation associated with SLE can occur in many different tissues and organs. Systemic lupus can affect the skin, brain, eyes, mouth, lungs, heart, kidneys, intestines, and joints. If lupus is limited to the skin, it’s known as cutaneous lupus.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is lupus diagnosed?

    A definitive diagnosis of lupus can take years, and it's often based on a fluctuating pattern of  clinical symptoms, like skin rashes and joint pain. Lupus is often diagnosed using an anti-nuclear antibody blood test (ANA), which identifies autoantibodies that attack your body's own tissues and cells. Taken together, the symptoms and diagnostic tests help point to a diagnosis of lupus.

  • What causes lupus?

    Experts believe that multiple predisposing factors may work together to cause lupus. Genetics, infections stress, and certain medications can contribute to your risk of developing lupus. The condition affects women more often than men, and symptoms typically begin between ages 15 and 45.

  • Is lupus contagious?

    Lupus is not contagious. The condition often causes a rash, and many people fear catching a rash, but the rash that is associated with lupus is caused by an internal reaction of the body’s own immune system, and it doesn’t come from anything that you can catch from someone else.

  • Is lupus genetic?

    Some people have a genetic predisposition to lupus, but you can develop the condition if you don’t have a family history of lupus, and you don’t necessarily have to develop it if you have family members who have lupus. The hereditary pattern of inheritance and the specific genes involved in lupus are not known.

Key Terms

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  1. Lupus Foundation of America. Lupus facts and statistics.

  2. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Neonatal lupus. 2018.

Additional Reading