Autoimmune Disease

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body harms its own healthy cells and tissues. When it’s working correctly, your immune system protects your body from infection and disease. With lupus, your immune system attacks different parts of your body like your joints, skin, brain, kidneys and heart, causing tissue damage and illness.

Lupus is more common in women than men and occurs most often between the ages of 15 and 44. Its cause is unknown and may be linked to genetics, your environment or certain medications.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

The signs of lupus can vary, depending on the parts of the body it affects.

Common symptoms include:

  • Painful joints
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Hair loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • “Butterfly” rash on the bridge of your nose and cheeks
  • Chronic dry eyes and mouth
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Mouth sores

Nearly all people diagnosed with lupus test positive for antinuclear antibodies (ANA). However, having a positive ANA is not the only criteria. To be diagnosed with lupus, you must have four common signs of the disease.

Diagnostic tests often include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Tissue biopsy

Lupus causes periods of illness, called flares, followed by periods of wellness, called remission. While there is no cure for lupus, the condition can usually be treated successfully with medication and lifestyle changes.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Personalized Care Tailored to Your Needs

The experts at Penn State Health understand that lupus does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. We work closely with you to create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and health goals. Treatment is focused on controlling symptoms and preventing flares and typically features lifestyle changes and medication, including:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Antimalarial drugs, like hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, to treat mouth sores, skin rashes and joint pain
  • Corticosteroids, like prednisone and hydrocortisone, to control or reduce your immune response
  • Immunosuppressants, like Benlysta, Imuran or CellCept, to suppress your immune system

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