Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and nervous system. It is one of the most common autoimmune diseases (diseases in which the immune system attacks its own body tissues).
Lupus is an unpredictable lifelong condition that typically affects young women between 18 and 45 years of age, but it can affect men and those older or younger as well. It is estimated that lupus affects over 1 in 1,000 Canadians. Between the ages of 15 to 45, women are diagnosed with lupus 8 times more frequently than men. In the early days of treating lupus, doctors only recognized the most severe cases and there were very limited treatments. As a result, the survival rate was not very good. Today, doctors usually recognize cases much earlier, and more mild cases, and there are now better ways of managing the disease. As a result, while there is still no cure for lupus, the survival rate is close to 90% 10 years after diagnosis.
However, available treatments all have risks and side effects, so people with lupus sometimes have to choose between those risks and the effects of their disease. In some cases, the disease is more moderate and minimal treatment is needed.