Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and nervous system. It is one of the most common autoimmune diseases (diseases in which the immune system attacks its own body tissues).
Lupus is an unpredictable lifelong condition that typically affects young women between 18 and 40 years of age, but it can affect men and those older or younger. The ratio of women to men with lupus aged 15 to 40 is 12:1. Lupus occurs in 1 in 10,000 men, 1 in 1,000 white women, and 1 in 250 women of African descent.
In the early days of treating lupus, doctors only recognized the most severe cases and there were very limited treatments. As a result, the survival rate was not very good. Today, doctors usually recognize cases much earlier, and more mild cases, and there are now better ways of managing the disease. As a result, while there is still no cure for lupus, the survival rate is close to 90% 10 years after diagnosis.
However, available treatments all have risks and side effects, so people with lupus sometimes have to choose between those risks and the effects of their disease. In some cases, the disease is more moderate and minimal treatment is needed.