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Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease which affects many Canadians. In lupus, the immune system that normally protects the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders malfunctions and fails to distinguish between the body’s own tissues and the invaders. As a result, the immune system attacks different parts of the body itself, causing inflammation in those tissues. This inflammation gives rise to the symptoms that characterize lupus.

Lupus is a member of the autoimmune family of diseases which includes rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, scleroderma and others. Lupus is not a form of cancer, is not related to AIDS and is not contagious.

Systemic lupus erythematosus ( SLE ) is the most common and serious type of lupus. The autoimmune reaction in SLE can target any tissue of the body, including the skin, muscles, joints, blood, lungs, heart, kidneys and/or brain. Any part of the body may be affected by lupus.

Lupus can affect men, women and children of all ages. It develops most frequently in women between the ages of fifteen and forty-five. In this age range, lupus is nine times more common in women than in men. For individuals younger than l5 or older than 45, lupus seems to affect either sex equally. People with lupus will have a close relative (20%) with lupus and there is a (5%) chance that children born to individuals with lupus will develop the disease.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and subacute cutaneous lupus (SCLE) are two types of lupus where skin rashes and sun sensitivity are the primary symptoms. DLE may cause a red scaly rash to appear on the face, scalp, ears, arms and/or chest, while in SCLE, rashes typically occur on the arms and upper body. With these types of lupus the internal organs are spared and general health is usually not affected.

A small number of individuals (approximately l0%) who are diagnosed with these limited types of lupus may develop symptoms of systemic lupus. DLE and SCLE may sometimes be present with SLE . Tests are performed to rule out SLE whenever DLE or SCLE are diagnosed.

Drug-induced lupus develops as a reaction to certain medications used to treat other medical conditions. Not everyone using these drugs will develop this form of lupus. In certain sensitive individuals, lupus symptoms will appear. Fortunately, drug-induced lupus goes away when the person stops taking the medication that triggered lupus. The average age of onset for DIL is 60 years of age. Suspect drugs implicated in triggering DIL may be: Hydralazine, Procainamide, Sulfasalazine, Isoniazid, Carbamazepine, Phenothiazines, Quinidine, Griseofulvin.

As always, please discuss your concerns and questions with your physician. Advise your doctors if you are taking any herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications as they may interfere with your prescribed treatments. Keep a daily diary and write down any questions to be discussed at your next appointment.

Lupus Foundation of Ontario is not qualified to, nor does it, offer medical advice. Please discuss all medical information with your physicians before making any choices.

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Page last updated: October 07, 2010