Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly referred to as lupus, is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system (which normally protects the body from infections) mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation, swelling and pain.
The symptoms and severity of lupus vary greatly between people. Many people experience tiredness, weight loss and a mildly raised temperature (fever). Other common symptoms of SLE include:
Symptoms can get worse and cause permanent damage to your body.
No one knows why lupus occurs. Possible triggers include infections, certain medicines or sunlight. Hormonal changes may play a role in lupus. Lupus is more common in women. Cigarette smoking and stress may also be factors in the development of lupus or cause symptoms to flare up.
Lupus is not contagious but it does have a hereditary component, so careful reporting of family medical information is important.
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