Lupus is a chronic disease that can damage any organ. This disease occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissue because it cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders and the body. Scientists believe lupus is caused by a combination of hormones, genetics, and environmental factors. People with lupus can experience symptoms that include fatigue, joint pain, sensitivity to sunlight, and a butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose. About 90% of people with the disease are women. Although there is currently no cure for lupus, many people with the disease can manage their symptoms with proper treatment.
- There are four different forms of lupus: systemic, cutaneous (affecting just the skin), drug-induced, and neonatal.
- Some people with lupus don’t have visible symptoms, but may still suffer from unseen symptoms like joint pain.
- Lupus should always be treated by a doctor. With careful treatment, most people with lupus can live a normal life span.
- Lupus is not contagious or sexually transmitted—people cannot “catch” lupus.
Although there is no known way to prevent the onset of lupus, there are steps people with lupus can take to manage their disease and prevent or minimize lupus flares once they have been diagnosed:
- It is important for people with lupus to take their medications as directed by their medical team. Careful adherence to lupus medications, even when someone with lupus doesn’t feel sick, will help prevent lupus flares.
- Exposure to UV rays from sunlight and other light sources can trigger flares in many people with lupus. Staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., applying sunscreen every day, and wearing sun protective clothing can prevent UV rays from triggering a lupus flare.
- Emotional stress and exhaustion can trigger flares. It is important for people with lupus to get plenty of sleep so they can feel rested and to avoid stress by planning ahead for activities and asking for help when they need it.
- Although there is no special diet for people with lupus, it is important to eat a variety of nutritious foods including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and moderate servings of meat and fish. People with lupus should avoid eating alfalfa, because it has been associated with reports of lupus flares.