Understanding the Autoimmune Disease Lupus- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can attack any part of the body. It can affect the joints, areas of the skin and/or the organs. This is a chronic disease with symptoms that typically persist more than six weeks but can continue on for many years.

With lupus, the immune system ceases to function properly. This is normally the bodily system that fends off infections, germs, bacteria, viruses and other invaders, such as the flu. When the immune system is working properly it produces proteins, or antibodies that fight off these threats.

An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system cannot determine the difference between one of these invaders and the healthy tissues that makes up the body. Therefore, the body produces what’s called autoantibodies (auto = self) that actually attack healthy tissue to destroy it. These autoantibodies lead bodily tissues to become inflamed, causing pain and damage to different parts of the body.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is the type of disease that flares up for awhile and then goes into remission. When it is flaring up the symptoms get worse and you feel sick. When it goes into remission the symptoms subside and you feel a lot better.


More Information about Systemic Lupus Erythematosus SLE (from the LUPUS Foundation of America):

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus can appear to be mild or it can be seriously life threatening. Anyone suffering from lupus should be under the care of a physician. With good consistent medical care, most sufferers can lead full productive lives.

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus bears no relationship to HIV and/or AIDS. In HIV and/or AIDS the immune system isn’t functioning well so it is under-active. However, with lupus the problem is the opposite, the immune system is actually overactive.

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus bears no relationship to cancer. Cancer is a disease where abnormal tissues grow and spread rapidly into surrounding healthy tissues. Lupus is instead an autoimmune disease. However, some of the treatments for lupus may be the same or similar to those that treat cancer, such as immunosuppressant medications, which are used for chemotherapy.

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is not a contagious disease, even when there is sexual contact. This means that you won’t catch the disease from anyone, or if you have it you cannot give it to anyone.

  • There are over 16,000 new patients diagnosed with Lupus every year across the U.S. And approximately 5 million people across the world suffer from some form of lupus.

  • Medical research has shown that in the U.S. there are at least 1.5 million who suffer from lupus, but there may be more. No large-scales studies have been conducted in the U.S. that would reveal the true number of people in the country who suffer from lupus.

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus strikes women of color at a rate two to three times more than the rate at which it strikes Caucasians. However, people from all ethnic groups and races can come down with lupus.

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus affects mostly females during their childbearing years, from 15 to 44 years of age. However, males can develop lupus, as well as children and adolescents. Most who develop lupus come down with it when they’re 15 to 44 years of age.