A rare autoimmune disease, lupus can affect multiple organs and cause varying symptoms, complicating care for both patients and caregivers. For ready reference, this article consolidates some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about lupus. What is lupus? Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that develops when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own organs and tissues, causing inflammation, damage, and pain. What are the different types of lupus? There are four different types of lupus. These include: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — the most common form of the disease, which affects the skin, joints, kidneys, and other organs. Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) — limited to the skin, resulting in rashes and lesions. Drug-induced lupus erythematosus (DIL) — a lupus-like condition that occurs as a result of taking certain medications. Neonatal erythematosus (NE) — not a true form of lupus, but caused due to certain autoantibodies that travel from the mother to the developing fetus during pregnancy. What causes lupus? Several factors are known to cause lupus, including exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays, viral and bacterial infections, medications, and genetics. In many patients, however, the cause is unknown. What is the prevalence of lupus? Between 322,000 to 1.5 million people are estimated to be affected by SLE in the U.S. Women are at an increased risk of developing lupus compared with men. Incidents of lupus are known to be higher in industrialized Western nations compared with Africa and Asia. Can lupus be inherited? Although lupus can run in families, the inheritance pattern of the disease is unknown. Usually, people inherit the risk of acquiring lupus rather than the disease itself. What are the symptoms of lupus? Symptoms of lupus can vary from person to person, and often overlap with those of other autoimmune diseases. Common symptoms include fatigue, skin rashes, fever, chest pain, sensitivity to light, and joint pain. Depending on the organ affected, different symptoms may present. Patients also may experience flares, which are significant increases in disease activity, that may exacerbate symptoms. What is a lupus flare? A clinically significant, measurable increase in disease activity that prompts changes in treatment is called a flare. During lupus flares, people usually experience a return of symptoms caused by triggers such as stress, infection, or other environmental factors. How is lupus diagnosed? The diagnosis of lupus is done via physical exams and laboratory tests. There are about 11 potential indications; at least four are required to confirm a lupus diagnosis. Is lupus contagious? No. Lupus is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Is lupus life-threatening? While symptoms of lupus can range from mild to severe. the disease can be managed and is not life-threatening. What are the available treatment options? As symptoms of lupus are unique to each patient, treatment is often personalized. There is no cure for the disease at this point, but it can be managed by administering nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antimalarials, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants. For more information, refer to our "Lupus Treatment" page. Is lupus similar to HIV-AIDS? No. Lupus is the result of an overactive immune system and can be caused by genetics and environmental factors. AIDS is characterized by an underactive immune system caused by an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Does lupus cause hair loss? Yes, hair loss can be an early sign of lupus. Due to widespread inflammation of the skin, loss of scalp hair — as well as a loss of eyebrows, eyelashes, and facial and body hair — can occur. However, hair usually regrows once the symptoms of lupus are treated. Are lupus patients at risk of heart disease? Yes. Lupus patients are at an increased risk of both heart attacks and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The disease can cause blockages in the blood vessels of the heart, and leakage in the heart valves, which can put individuals with the disease at greater risk.. Where can I find more information? Our website has a great deal of information about lupus, including ongoing research, new therapies being developed, and ongoing clinical trials. For more information and access to support groups and networking opportunities, check out the following organizations: Lupus Research Alliance Lupus Foundation of America The Lupus Initiative American College of Rheumatology Last updated: Sept. 30, 2019 *** Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.