What is lupus? Lupus is a chronic disease that can have a serious and widespread effect on the body including the skin, joints, muscles, and other organs. However, in many cases, lupus is a mild disease that can be successfully controlled with regular medical care. About 1.5 million Americans have lupus, and about 90 percent of people with lupus are women, according to the Lupus Foundation of America (Source: LFA). Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Normally, your immune system can tell the difference between your own tissues and foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. The immune system produces antibodies that target bacteria, viruses, and other abnormal substances for destruction. But in an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissues and organs as dangerous invaders in the body and attacks them. This results in chronic inflammation that can eventually damage and destroy the affected tissues and organs. There are four types of lupus. They include: Discoid lupus erythematosus affects the skin. Discoid lupus is also known as cutaneous lupus. Drug-induced lupus erythematosus occurs as a side effect of some drugs, such as beta blockers, which are commonly used to treat heart disease and hypertension. Neonatal lupus erythematosus is a rare form of lupus in newborn babies whose mothers have lupus, which can cause problems at birth or a serious heart defect in rare cases. Systemic lupus erythematosus causes inflammation in multiple organs and body systems. The onset of lupus often occurs in young adulthood through middle age. Common lupus symptoms include joint pain; extreme fatigue; headaches; swelling of the legs, feet, hands and face; hair loss; and a butterfly-shaped rash across the bridge of the nose. However, in many cases, lupus is a mild disease characterized by periodic episodes of some of these symptoms. Seeking regular medical care and following your treatment plan may help reduce the risk of serious complications of lupus. In some cases, lupus can progress further and result in serious, even fatal complications, such as heart disease, infections, and kidney failure. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have symptoms of complications of lupus, such as trouble breathing, swelling of the legs, decreased urine output, chest pain, high fever, or a change in alertness or consciousness.