Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, also called Lupus or SLE is a rheumatic disease of unknown cause that can affect the joints, skin, and internal organs. It occurs mostly in women, is often mild, but can have serious effects. Lupus occurs most often in African-American women, and then Hispanic women. The incidence in white women is much lower. Early symptoms can include tiredness, weakness, fever, a butterfly shaped skin rash across the bridge of the nose and the cheeks, and a rash on the neck. Some individuals with lupus are very sensitive to sunlight, which makes their rashes worse.
Other signs and symptoms include joint pain, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, muscle pain, loss of hair, kidney problems and swollen glands. The treatment focus includes medication, applying heat or cold to the affected joints, exercise, rest, and avoiding the sun. Lupus is classified as an autoimmune disease (See description for autoimmune disease in What It Means, Our Glossary).