Reviewed by JoAnn Zell, MD

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is a chronic disease that can affect almost any organ in the body. People with mild lupus may only have skin rashes and/or joint pain. In more severe lupus patients, important organs like the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and brain can be involved.

Any two people with lupus may have different symptoms or manifestations. People with lupus can have active disease or sometimes go into a period of remission or low disease activity. While lupus cannot be cured, your healthcare provider can help you control symptoms.

Lupus symptoms are caused by an overly active immune system. Normally the immune system protects us by attacking bacteria, viruses and other cells recognized as foreign and harmful to the body. But with lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissue. Lupus is called an autoimmune disorder because the immune system attacks the "self" (auto means self). The reason for these mistakes by the immune system is not completely understood.

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