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Lupus is not a well-known disease, but it affects more than 1.5 million Americans. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues and organs. It can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic those of other diseases and there is no one test to positively identify the disease. Symptoms include intense fatigue, joint pain, thinking and memory problems, kidney problems, skin rashes and more.

Lupus affects mostly women

About 90 percent of those with lupus are women, most of whom are of child bearing age (15-44). It is believed that the disease may be linked to female hormones since it mostly occurs in women during their reproductive years, when hormone levels are highest. People of African, Asian and Native American descent are more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians.

Butterfly rash

A signature rash on the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose in the shape of a butterfly is a distinct characteristic of lupus, but it is not present in all cases. No two cases of lupus are the same, making it even more difficult to diagnose.

Flare-ups and remission

Symptoms with lupus tend to come and go. Most cases of lupus are mild, and may not require treatment. Patients with more serious involvement (such as kidney complications) can require powerful medications. Because lupus is a condition that can change over time and is not always predictable, a critical part of good care includes regular visits with a knowledgeable rheumatologist.

There is still a lot to learn about lupus, but great strides have been made in patient outcomes. Today, 95 percent of lupus patients have a five-year survival rate, compared to 5 percent in the 1950s.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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