Lupus

What CDC Is Doing to Improve Understanding and Awareness of Lupus

woman sitting and thinking

Fast Facts

  • Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and harm to the affected organs.
  • There is no cure for lupus, but symptoms can be managed.
  • Early diagnosis of lupus is important to help reduce damage to organs.
  • CDC funds research to guide decisions about the best ways to diagnose, treat, and manage lupus.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system sees the body’s healthy cells as foreign invaders and attacks them, causing inflammation and harm to the affected organs. The most common type, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affects about 204,000 US adults. Anyone can develop SLE, but it is more common in Black and Latina women and women of childbearing age (15–44 years).

The causes of SLE are unknown but are thought to be related to genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. SLE is hard to diagnose because the symptoms are often mistaken for those of other diseases. Symptoms range from mild to severe, the most common being fatigue, skin rashes, fevers, and pain or swelling in the joints.

There is no cure for SLE, but symptoms can be managed. Treatment calms the immune system to prevent periods of increased SLE symptoms called “flares” and reduce or prevent joint and organ damage. Early diagnosis, effective treatments, and taking medicines as directed can help reduce the damaging effects of SLE. CDC conducts disease tracking research and supports programs to improve care and quality of life for people with SLE.

Measuring How Many Have Lupus

SLE is rare and hard to diagnose, so CDC funded lupus registries to count the number of children and adults with the disease and understand their characteristics. Results from the registries show that women are 8 times more likely than men to have SLE. Among women, Black women are 3.3 to 4.2 times more likely and Latina women are 1.6 to 2.2 times more likely to have SLE compared with White women.

Studying Lupus to Find Effective Treatments

CDC funds five long-term studies of adults and children with lupus. These studies monitor symptoms over time, the effectiveness of treatments, use of the health care system, development of other conditions, risk factors, and the effects of lupus on important life activities. Data collected guide decisions about the best ways to diagnose, treat, and manage lupus.

Promoting National Partnerships

CDC funds the Lupus Foundation of America and the American College of Rheumatology to raise awareness about lupus and improve knowledge and skills among providers and self-management skills among patients.

In the United States:
9 women and 1 man

WOMEN

account for more than 90% of lupus cases, but men can also get lupus.
black and latina women

BLACK AND LATINA

women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop lupus than White women.
kidney

KIDNEY DISEASE

is a common outcome of lupus.
woman with doctor

Raising Awareness About Lupus

  • Online informationexternal icon is available on SLE signs, symptoms and diagnosis, lupus care and self-management, and lupus resources.
  • Be Fierce. Take Control.external icon is a campaign that raises awareness and knowledge of lupus symptoms in Black and Latina women aged 18 to 25 to help with early diagnosis.
  • Understanding Lupusexternal icon is a bilingual training program for promotoras (Latina community health workers) to increase awareness and understanding of SLE signs and symptoms in Latino communities.
  • Playbook Projectexternal icon is a step-by-step guide for community and student organizations with a campaign and detailed activities to spread key awareness messages about SLE.
  • Nurses in K–12 schools are trained to care for students with SLE and support the shift from pediatric to adult care.

Enhancing Self-Management Skills

father and child

Improving Health Care Providers’ Knowledge and Skills

Developing a Blueprint for Public Health Strategies

The 2015 National Public Health Agenda for Lupuspdf icon[PDF – 8 MB]external icon is a blueprint for the types of partnerships and actions neededa to help understand and treat SLE and reduce serious complications.

Page last reviewed: April 7, 2021