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Lupus facts for kids

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Lupus erythematosus
A hand-colored photo of 1886, showing a lupus-caused rash (the red parts in the photo)

Lupus, or Lupus erythematosus, is a disease of the immune system. It is chronic, which means it does not go away. It is an autoimmune disease, where the person's immune system attacks their own body.

The immune system is partly made up of white blood cells in your body that fight off disease. In lupus, these white blood cells think that the healthy cells of the body around them are diseased, so they end up attacking healthy parts of the body. Lupus can be deadly. It causes swelling and tissue damage, and can attack any part of the body. It most commonly affects the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and the brain/nervous system. Some symptoms include: fatigue, fever with no cause, hair loss, mouth sores, sensitivity to sunlight, a skin disease, and Raynaud's syndrome. There is treatment for lupus, called immunosuppression, which is medicine that stops the white blood cells from damaging healthy cells for a while. After a while, this medicine wears off, and then the white blood cells go back to hurting healthy parts of the body again. For the disease of lupus, there is no cure that stops the white blood cells from attacking healthy parts of the body forever, but doctors are not giving up on finding a cure.

Lupus takes its name from the Latin word "lupus", meaning wolf. This is because a lupus-caused rash on a person's face makes the person's face look like the face of a wolf. In the United States alone, there may be 270,000 to 1.5 million (1,500,000) people with lupus. Worldwide, it is estimated (not known for sure, but a good guess) that over 5 million (5,000,000) people living with lupus. The disease mainly affects young women, but men can be affected as well.

Famous people with lupus

  • Disney Star Selena Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2013.
  • The pop singer Michael Jackson was diagnosed with systemic lupus in 1986.
  • Toni Braxton has systemic lupus.
  • British singer-songwriter Seal has had scarring on his face due to lupus since the age of 23.

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