Lupus is one of America's least recognized major diseases. Nearly 1.5 million Americans have lupus. In fact, more Americans have lupus than cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis combined, making it one of this country's most prevalent medical problems. However, while lupus is widespread, awareness and accurate knowledge about it lag behind many other illnesses. Lupus is on the rise, and scientists don't know exactly why.
What Is Lupus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus (S.L.E.), commonly called lupus, is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can affect virtually any organ of the body. In lupus, the body's immune system, which normally functions to protect against foreign invaders, becomes hyperactive, forming antibodies that attack normal tissues and organs, including the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, and blood. Lupus is characterized by periods of illness, called flares, and periods of wellness, or remission.
Because its symptoms come and go and mimic those of other diseases, lupus is difficult to diagnose. There is no single laboratory test that can definitively prove that a person has this complex illness.