What is Lupus
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues (“auto” means “self”) and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
- Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot “catch” lupus from someone or “give” lupus to someone.
- Lupus is not like or related to cancer. Cancer is a condition of malignant, abnormal tissues that grow rapidly and spread into surrounding tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as described above.
- Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is under active; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.
Treatments for Lupus
Because the symptoms of lupus vary from one person to another, the treatment of the disease is tailored to the specific problems that arise in each person. In many cases, the best approach to treating your lupus is with a health care team.
Medications to Treat Lupus Symptoms
- Corticosteroids (also known as glucocorticoids, cortisone or steroids)
- Antimalarials are used in combination with steroids and other medications, in part to reduce the dose required of the other drugs. Antimalarials are most often prescribed for skin rashes, mouth ulcers, and joint pain, but also can be effective in mild forms of lupus where inflammation and blood clotting are a concern.
- Immunosuppressive medications are used to control inflammation and the overactive immune system, especially when steroids have been unable to bring lupus symptoms under control, or when a person cannot tolerate high doses of steroids.
- Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®)
- Azathioprine (Imuran®)
- BENLYSTA (formerly called Lymphostat-BT) was developed to disrupt activation of B lymphocytes by interfering with BLyS, a protein required for B cell activity. It is the first new medication approved for lupus in more than 50 years.