Lupus Awareness Month: What is Lupus?

Lupus has become the forefront of a lot of media attention recently following Toni Braxton’s hospitalisation due to complications caused by Lupus and after Selena Gomez announced her diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment for the disease. October is Lupus Awareness Month in the UK and CelebMix Cares has chosen to highlight Lupus in a month of articles.

Lupus is a very complicated disease to understand so the CelebMix team did some research through registered Lupus charities Lupus UK & Lupus Foundation of America and their respective websites to find out answers to the big questions that had us scratching our heads.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is an auto-immune disease that can cause damage to any part of the body, including major organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, brain and skin.

What causes 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 Awareness Month: What is Lupus? 2

How many types of Lupus are there?

There are three different types of Lupus according to Lupus UK’s “Patient Guide”: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Discoid Lupus and Drug Induced Lupus. Lupus UK’s patient guide gives a detailed explanation for each of the types of Lupus.

“Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Is a disease where the immune system becomes overactive and starts making antibodies against its own cells and is therefore called an auto-immune disease. When the disease is active, immune responses can cause inflammation in cells which can then affect one or many tissues of the body: skin, joints, muscles, blood vessels, blood cells, brain and nerves, other organs such as lungs, heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and/or the linings around internal organs. Patients have a variable course with the disease lasting many years in the majority.

Dicoid Lupus (DLE): In general DLE is a disease just affecting the skin and rarely affects the internal organs, i.e. rarely becomes systemic. Most studies suggest that approximately 5% of patients with discoid lupus at some stage may suffer a generalised flare of the disease, involving joints, kidneys and autoantibody production and may progress to developing Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. If left untreated Discoid Lupus may leave a scar.

Drug-induced Lupus (DILE): can occur during the administration of certain drugs in susceptible individuals. Hydralazine, Phenytoin, anti-TNF drugs, procainamide and minocycline can lead to lupus like symptoms which usually resolve with time after the medication is stopped by the doctor.”

Is Lupus contagious?

No, Lupus is not contagious. Lupus cannot be passed on to another person like a viral cough or cold, you can’t catch Lupus. Although, it is being widely researched as to whether or not Lupus is hereditary through certain genes.

“No gene or group of genes has been proven to cause lupus. Lupus does, however, appear in certain families, and when one of two identical twins has lupus, there is an increased chance that the other twin will also develop the disease. These findings, as well as others, strongly suggest that genes are involved in the development of lupus. Although lupus can develop in people with no family history of lupus, there are likely to be other autoimmune diseases in some family members.” (Source:

How many people have Lupus?

“The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million people worldwide, have a form of lupus.” (Source:

Lupus Awareness Month: What is Lupus? 3

How long does it take to reach diagnosis?

According to Lupus UK, the average time for a confirmed diagnosis is 7.5 years.

Lupus Awareness Month: What is Lupus? 1

Is Lupus fatal?

“Lupus is not a universally fatal disease. In fact, today, with close follow-up and treatment, 80-90% of the people with lupus can expect to live a normal life span. For people who have a severe flare-up, there is a greater chance that their lupus may be life-threatening. People do die of this disease; however, the majority of people living with lupus today can expect to live a normal lifespan.” (Source:

Lupus Awareness Month: What is Lupus? 4


Is there a cure?

In short, no. “There is at present no cure for lupus but careful monitoring of the disease and a treatment programme with medication adjusted as appropriate enables the condition to be controlled, most patients being able to live a normal life span.” (Source:

Lupus UK have produced a wonderful video we’ve added in below that explains very clearly what Lupus is and the problems behind the disease. Give it a watch!

If you want to find out more about Lupus, Lupus UK have various downloadable publications available for free right here.

Keep up to date with CelebMix Cares and our month of Lupus coverage by following us on Twitter @CelebMix or find us on Facebook.

Written by CelebMix