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by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 05/30/2018

Medically reviewed by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D. 08/09/2021​​

With an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues and organs.

Lupus is characterized by chronic inflammation. As autoimmune diseases go, lupus is unique because it can affect many different systems in the body.

There are many types of lupus. The most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which can affect many parts of the bod—as the term systemic implies. Systemic lupus erythematosus is often referred to as SLE or lupus. Lupus affects each person who has it differently.

The immune system protects your body from illness and infection by attacking foreign substances. With an autoimmune disease such as lupus, however, the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues.

The most common inflammation associated with lupus occurs in the joints. About 90 percent of people with lupus experience joint inflammation and arthritis—and can live with chronic pain and fatigue. Many other parts of your body can be affecting including the skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and the brain.

Other forms of lupus include discoid lupus erythematosus, which causes a skin rash; sub-acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, which causes sores on parts of the body exposed to the sun; drug-induced lupus, which can be caused by medications; and neonatal lupus, a rare condition that affects newborns.

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Lupus can affect anyone, but it’s more prevalent in women than in men—nine out of 10 people with lupus are women. African-American women are three times more likely to get lupus than White women, and it’s also more common in Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and American Indian women.

Next: Signs & Symptoms of Lupus


i.  Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available here

ii.  National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available here.

iii.  Lupus: What Is Lupus? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available here