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Lupus is one of many disorders of the immune system known as autoimmune
diseases. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system turns against parts of the body it is
designed to protect. This leads to inflammation and damage to various body tissues. Lupus
can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs,
blood vessels, and brain. Although people with the disease may have many different
symptoms, some of the most common ones include extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints
(arthritis), unexplained fever, skin rashes, and kidney problems.
At present, there is no cure for lupus.
However, lupus can be effectively treated with drugs, and most people with
the disease can lead active, healthy lives. Lupus is characterized by periods of illness,
called flares, and periods of wellness, or remission. Understanding how to prevent flares
and how to treat them when they do occur helps people with lupus maintain better health.
Intense research is underway, and scientists funded by the NIH are continuing to make
great strides in understanding the disease, which may ultimately lead to a cure.
Focus on research for a Cure for Lupus
Two of the major questions researchers are studying are who gets lupus and
why. We know that many more women than men have lupus. Lupus is three times more common in
African American women than in Caucasian women and is also more common in women of
Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent. In addition, lupus can run in families, but
the risk that a child or a brother or sister of a patient will also have lupus is still
quite low. It is difficult to estimate how many people in the United States have the
disease because its symptoms vary widely and its onset is often hard to pinpoint.