Lupus is the short name for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own cells as if they were invaders like germs or cancer cells. This leads to inflammation and damage to body tissues, such as those in the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.

Symptoms of lupus vary greatly, but some of the most common include extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints, unexplained fever, skin rashes and kidney problems. Typically, lupus first affects people between the ages of 15 and 45 years old, but it can occur in childhood or later in life. Lupus is far more common in women than in men. It is also more common in African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native-American women than in Caucasian women.

Other, less common forms of lupus include:

  • Discoid lupus erythematosus: A chronic skin disorder that involves a red, raised rash on the face, scalp or elsewhere.
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus: The rash appears on areas of skin exposed to the sun.
  • Drug-induced lupus: This form is caused by some medications. Symptoms are similar to SLE and they usually go away when the person stops taking the drug.
  • Neonatal lupus: A rare form of lupus that sometimes occurs in babies of women who have autoimmune disorders.