What Is Lupus?


Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, is a chronic autoimmune syndrome that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy tissue. More specifically, the immune system creates autoantibodies that target different parts of the body, potentially causing pain, inflammation, and damage to the skin, joints, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, or nervous system. As of yet, the causes of lupus remain unclear, although scientists have identified some potential links to certain genetic and environmental factors.

Lupus symptoms can vary widely. Some of the more common signs include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • A “butterfly” rash that spreads across the nose and cheeks
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Joint pain and inflammation
  • Anemia
  • Swelling in the feet, legs, hands, or around the eyes
  • Hair loss

There is no single, definitive diagnostic test for lupus, which can make it difficult to identify for a number of reasons. First, the syndrome can affect many different organs throughout the body. Second, its symptoms can wax and wane over the course of many years. Finally, many lupus symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and thyroid disease.

With all of that said, many people who are diagnosed with lupus test positive for high levels of antinuclear antibodies (ANA). These proteins are not always problematic and are often found in healthy people as well. However, in very high concentrations, ANA can damage and destroy healthy cells.

Currently, there is no cure for lupus. Treatment may involve a course of medications to control the symptoms by reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. Because the syndrome can range from mild to life-threatening, it’s essential for a patient to work closely with an experienced physician who can provide appropriate and individualized treatment.

If you’ve noticed a mysterious rash spreading across your nose and cheeks, or you have other symptoms of lupus, you are encouraged to see a physician who can help you figure out what’s happening and determine the best course of treatment. You are welcome to consult with a physician at South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are necessary at our walk-in clinic, which is conveniently located on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL.