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Lupus is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes inflammation which can affect many different parts of the body. It most commonly affects the skin, joints and other organs in the body such as the kidneys, the tissue lining the lungs, heart, and brain.i,ii Symptoms of lupus can come and go, and new ones can appear at any time.iii There are many forms of lupus. The most common type is called systemic lupus erythematosus (pronounced eh-rith-a-mah-TOE-sus).iv

  • Lupus is called an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation throughout the body. When the immune system is working correctly, it attacks harmful invaders (such as viruses, bacteria, other germs) in your body that can make you sick. But if you have lupus, your immune system attacks your own healthy cells and tissues instead. This can lead to pain and damage to many parts of your body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain.i,ii

  • The exact cause is unknown.i Scientists believe that lupus may develop in response to a combination of factors, including genes and the environment (such as exposure to viral infections, ultraviolet (UV) light, certain medications, and smoking).v,vi

    About 1.5 million people in the United States have a form of lupus.vii  SLE, the most common form of lupus, can affect males and females of all ages, including children. However, lupus is more common in women aged 15 and 44. Minorities and ethnic groups are affected more than whites. Lupus is two to three times more common in African American women than in Caucasian women. It's also more common in Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women. African American and Hispanic women are more likely to have severe forms of lupus.viii

  • Lupus has many symptoms. Some of the most common include: iii,iv

    • Joint pain or swelling.
    • Muscle pain.
    • Fever when you’re not sick.
    • Various skin rashes, one of the more common of which is a red rash (called a butterfly rash) usually on the face and cheeks; the rash can get worse with sun exposure.
    • Chest pain when taking a deep breath.
    • Hair loss.
    • Pale or purple fingers or toes.
    • Sensitivity to the sun.
    • Swelling in the legs or around the eyes.
    • Mouth sores.
    • Swollen glands.
    • Feeling very tired.

    Other less common symptoms include anemia (a low number of red blood cells)ix, headaches, dizzy spells, feeling sad, confusion, and seizures.x

  • Unfortunately, there is no single test that doctors can use to make a diagnosis. Instead, they use a number of tools and assessments starting with the most important component, the complete medical history, along with: xi

    • A complete physical exam.
    • Blood tests.
    • A skin biopsy (looking at your skin under a microscope).
    • A kidney biopsy (looking at tissue from your kidney under a microscope).
    • Imaging tests of various organs in the body.

    A diagnosis can take months, or even years, due to the variability of symptoms over time, which can make lupus harder to identify.xii

  • There is no cure for lupus yet.ii If you are diagnosed with lupus, your doctor will work with you to:xiii

    • Prevent flares (the times when you are having symptoms).
    • Treat flares when they happen.
    • Reduce damage to your organs and prevent problems from happening.

    Treatments may include medicines to help:xiv

    • Reduce swelling and relieve pain.
    • Prevent or reduce flares.
    • Suppress your overactive immune system.
    • Prevent or reduce damage to your joints.

Lupus is a focus of our Inflammation & Immunology Therapeutic Area.

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