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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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What Is Lupus?
August 2001

Q. What is lupus? What happens exactly when one has it? What causes it? What is the usual treatment? What is the most current research on lupus? Does having lupus affect everyday living? Can one die of lupus? What is the longest life span of a lupus patient?

A. Lupus, more formally known as systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE), is one of a group of auto immune diseases in which the immune cells of the body begin to attack and damage the body's own tissue. The cause for this is unknown. Genetics may play a role as there is often found to be more than one case among close relatives. Common symptoms at the beginning of the disease include fever, rash, weight loss, fatigue, and many other symptoms.

Any organ system of the body can be affected including the joints, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. There is no cure for lupus but many medications are available to treat the manifestations of the illness. Often doctors in many different specialties are involved in treatment of the patient with lupus due to its wide ranging effects. The severity and course are unpredictable, often with periods in which the disease flares up, and periods in which the disease is relatively inactive. Doctors with experience in the treatment of lupus should direct patient care.

http://www.nih.gov/niams/healthinfo/slehandout/

http://www.lupus.org/

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