lupus (lōˈpəs) [key], noninfectious chronic disease in which antibodies in an individual's immune system attack the body's own substances. In lupus, known medically as lupus erythematosus, antibodies are produced against the individual's own cells, causing tissue inflammation and cell damage. Because the vascular and connective tissue of any body organ may be affected, various symptoms may result. Generalized symptoms include fever, weakness, weight loss, anemia, enlargement of the spleen, and a characteristic butterfly-shaped skin rash on the face. Heart, joint, and kidney disease are common (see nephritis). It is believed that the disease may be triggered by certain drugs or foreign proteins, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or extreme stress. The disease, which may range from mild to fatal, occurs commonly in young women. It is treated with immunosuppressive drugs and steroids. See immunity; autoimmune disease.

See R. G. Lahita and R. H. Phillips, Lupus: Everything You Need to Know (1998).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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