Doctor taking notes while consulting with patient

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.​


Key Facts

  • 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.
Three women

Common Symptoms of Lupus

Because lupus can affect so many different organs, a wide range of signs and symptoms can occur. These symptoms may come and go, and different symptoms may appear at different times during the course of the disease.

Woman holding sore shoulder


Many people with lupus have chronic muscle or joint pain. Pain medicines can help, but they also come with risks and side effects. Physical activity can help ease the pain.

Tired woman


Many people with lupus experience fatigue. Good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and support groups can help people with lupus feel better and have more energy.

Woman taking temperature


People with lupus may develop fevers when they are experiencing a lupus flare (high disease activity) or an infection. Fever can be especially dangerous when taking certain lupus medications, so it is important to contact a doctor for fevers of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or higher.

Brush filled with hair

Hair Loss

Many people with lupus experience hair loss. It can be a side effect of the disease itself or may be caused by the medications used to treat lupus. The hair is likely to grow back if there is no scarring, but scarring from lupus on the scalp can cause hair loss to be permanent.

​Management Tips

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.

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Page last reviewed: May 31, 2017