A woman at the doctor's office checking for signs of lupus.


Living with Lupus: What is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in various parts of the body.

Lupus can be spread throughout the following areas:

  • Joints
  • Skin
  • Kidneys
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Brain

It is caused by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

Lupus can affect people of any age or gender but is most common among women aged 15-44.

Primary care physicians are usually the first point of contact for people with lupus and other autoimmune conditions. They typically provide initial diagnosis and treatment as well as ongoing monitoring and management of the condition.

What Does Lupus Feel Like?

Lupus can cause a variety of symptoms that may range from mild to severe.

Common lupus symptoms include:

  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fingers and toes turning blue in cold temperatures
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Mouth sores
  • Sensitivity to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light
  • Skin rash or lesions

People with lupus may also experience depression, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating as a result of their condition.

Some people with lupus can have “flare-ups” when they are exposed to triggers. What Causes Lupus Flare Ups?

Lupus flare-ups are caused by a variety of factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Certain medications
  • Infections (such as strep throat or flu)
  • Sun exposure
  • Stressful situations can trigger lupus symptoms due to the body’s response to increased levels of hormones such as cortisol.


Certain prescription drugs used for treating other conditions have been known to worsen or trigger lupus symptoms. These prescription drugs include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, and antimalarial medications.

It is important to discuss any medications you may plan on taking with your doctor.

Common Questions About Lupus

Is Lupus Contagious? 

No, lupus is not contagious. It is important to understand that lupus is not contagious. It cannot be passed from person to person, even by close contact.

Is Lupus a Type of Cancer? 

Lupus is not a form of cancer. While both can cause similar symptoms and have overlapping treatments, they are different.

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the organs and tissues. This causes inflammation and tissue damage that can affect many parts of the body.

Cancer, on the other hand, is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide and grow unchecked.

Can Lupus Cause Skin Cancer? 

Although Lupus itself does not directly cause skin cancer, people with lupus have a much higher risk of developing certain types of skin cancer.

Common types of skin cancer that often develop in people who have lupus are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. They are more likely to develop on areas that have been exposed to frequent sunlight, such as the face.

Can Lupus Kill You? 

Yes, if left untreated, lupus can lead to serious complications that may be life-threatening. People with lupus could develop severe organ damage and even death. That is why proper medication and monitoring is important to prevent severe illness.

The most common cause of death in lupus patients is infection. People with lupus should see their doctors regularly to monitor their condition and catch any warning signs of infection early.

If lupus is treated properly, it can be managed successfully, and patients can live full and healthy lives.

What are the Four Types of Lupus?

The main types of lupus are:

Acute cutaneous lupus: Acute cutaneous lupus causes the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy cells and tissues. Acute cutaneous lupus is limited to the skin, although it can cause systemic symptoms in rare cases.

Chronic cutaneous lupus:

Chronic cutaneous lupus is a long-term, chronic type of lupus that affects the skin. It can cause rashes or lesions on the face and chest.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder characterized by a wide variety of symptoms and signs, which can vary from person to person.

It affects the entire body but most often damages joints, skin, kidney blood cells, heart, lungs, and brain. The most common symptom of SLE is a butterfly-shaped rash that appears on the face. Other symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, and swelling.

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE): This condition, also known as discoid lupus, is characterized by rashes or sores on the skin. It can be either localized to certain areas of the body, like the face, neck, and chest. It can affect multiple areas of the body.

The most common symptom is a rash that typically appears on the face, scalp, or other areas of skin. These rashes often appear after direct exposure to the sun.

Drug-induced lupus erythematosus: Drug-induced lupus is a form of lupus caused by certain prescription medications. It has similar symptoms to systemic lupus erythematosus, including joint pain, rashes, fevers, fatigue, and other autoimmune system issues.

Unlike systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), drug-induced lupus is usually milder. The disease only lasts as long as the person continues taking the medication that caused it.

Neonatal lupus: Neonatal lupus is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects newborns. It occurs when the mother’s antibodies pass to the infant through the placenta during pregnancy. These antibodies can then attack healthy tissue in the baby’s body. It then causes damage to organs, including the skin, heart, liver, and blood cells.

How common is lupus?

Lupus is a relatively rare autoimmune disorder that can affect people of all ages, but it is becoming increasingly more common.

Lupus is much more common in women than in men.

Although lupus is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 44, all age groups can be affected.

How is lupus diagnosed?

Lupus is typically diagnosed based on a combination of medical history, physical exam, and laboratory tests. Your doctor may ask questions about your symptoms, family history, and lifestyle habits.

In addition, they may order a variety of blood tests. The blood tests will look for signs of inflammation, such as anemia or elevated white blood cell count (leukocytosis).

Other tests may include a urine test, skin biopsy, and X-rays. Your doctor may also request imaging tests. These imaging tests look for signs of inflammation in other areas of the body, such as joints or organs.

Your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist for further evaluation if they suspect an underlying autoimmune disorder.

Ultimately, the diagnosis of lupus is made based on a combination of these factors.

Can Lupus disease be passed through genetics?

Lupus appears to have a genetic component. Studies suggest that genetics can influence how likely someone is to develop lupus. It is unclear exactly which genes are responsible and the exact role they play.

However, having a family member with the condition does not guarantee you will develop lupus. It just means that you may have an increased risk.

Discuss any family history of lupus with your doctor. They can help provide appropriate advice on how to reduce the risk of developing the condition.

What testing can be done for lupus?

Testing for lupus can be done through lab tests, physical exams, and other imaging studies.

Blood tests look for certain proteins (antibodies) that indicate an autoimmune system disorder such as lupus.

Blood tests include anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) testing. This looks for patterns of abnormal antibodies in the blood which can be a sign of lupus.

During a physical exam for lupus, your doctor may look for signs and symptoms of the disease. They will check for the following:

  • Rashes or skin lesions
  • Swelling in joints
  • Any evidence of inflammation such as redness or warmth around certain areas
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

How to treat lupus naturally?

Lifestyle changes are a critical part of treating lupus naturally. Several lifestyle factors can help control the symptoms and reduce flare-ups. These include:

  • Eating healthy: A diet rich in seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can help support immune system health.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help reduce inflammation and stress, manage pain, and improve immune system health.
  • Reducing stress: Stress can contribute to lupus flare-ups by increasing inflammation and weakening the immune system. Stress management techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, and meditation can help reduce stress levels and improve overall health.
  • Managing exposure to sunlight: Sunlight exposure can trigger flare-ups in some people. It is important to limit your exposure to direct sunlight and wear protective clothing when outdoors.
  • Getting enough sleep: Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, making it more vulnerable to lupus flare-ups. Aim for eight hours of quality sleep each night by maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

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