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Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is a chronic autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks healthy cells, causing widespread inflammation in any part of the body.

Everyone has a different set of lupus symptoms. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Painful joints (arthritis)
  • Red, butterfly-shaped rash on the face
  • Chest pain
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Sores on the mouth and/or nose

Lupus: what you should know

  • Along with SLE, there are many other types of lupus. For instance, when lupus affects only your skin and nothing else, it is called cutaneous or discoid lupus.
  • Lupus has no cure, and left untreated, it can be fatal, damaging your brain and heart; however, with early treatment, 80 to 90 percent of patients live full lives.
  • It is unknown what causes lupus, but it tends to run in families. Also, if a family member has an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, your risk for autoimmune diseases increases.
  • Research at Rush shows factors such as socioeconomic status and education play a role in who develops the disease.

How can I get help for lupus?

If you have the symptoms listed above, see your primary care doctor, especially if a family member has an autoimmune disease. If your doctor suspects you have lupus, he or she will refer you to a rheumatologist, who treats diseases of joints and muscles, including autoimmune diseases.

Often lupus looks like other diseases, making diagnosis tricky. Rheumatologists at Rush have extensive experience in diagnosing lupus. Their goal is to provide you with an early diagnosis so you can begin treatment as soon as possible.  

Care for lupus at Rush

Every patient experiences lupus differently, so everyone’s treatment is different. At the Rush Lupus Clinic, your rheumatologists will create an individualized plan that helps improve your quality of life. Your care plan may involve some of the following elements, either alone or in combination:

  • Education about your specific condition and information about various educational or support related resources for you or your loved ones.
  • Medications: Your medication plan may include some of the following:
    • Anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation and pain
    • Corticosteroids to control the inflammation rapidly
    • Immunosuppressive medications to help control the inflammation, and to help you reduce the dose or come off of the corticosteroids
  • Preventive care and counseling tailored to your lupus and risk factors. This may include the following:
    • Vaccinations
    • Bone health screening and care
    • Assessment of your risk for heart attack
    • Testing for your cholesterol
    • Appropriate cancer screenings
  • Contraceptive or/and reproductive counseling and care for lupus. Women with lupus can have successful pregnancies. But it may require careful planning, assessment of risks and safer medications, and close monitoring of your lupus and pregnancy by a high-risk obstetrician. The team at the Rush Lupus Clinic has experience caring for women with lupus who have high-risk pregnancies and will help you every step of the way.
  • Treatment for lupus rashes. Lupus frequently affects skin, often in visible areas. Lupus rashes can vary in sizes, location and shape. Rheumatologists at Rush work closely with dermatologists at Rush who specialize in caring for people with autoimmune disease and treating these skin conditions.
  • Bone density testing. Some medications for lupus increase your chance of osteoporosis. The Rush Osteoporosis Center performs bone mineral density testing and stays on top of your bone health.
  • Intravenous services. Lupus may affect the kidneys, heart, lungs or brain. Though some medications may be given orally (by mouth), some medications in these conditions may need to be given urgently via a needle to reach your whole body (intravenously). Some of the newer medications for lupus are also given intravenously. If this is needed, the Rush Lupus Clinic offers convenient on-site intravenous services.
  • Emotional support. We understand that lupus can have a profound effect on the quality of your and your family’s lives. You will have an emotional health screening during each clinic visit and, if necessary, you will be referred to a psychologist who can help you manage the stress of living and coping with a chronic illness.
  • Occupational and physical therapists. Rehabilitation specialists at Rush, in collaboration with your rheumatologist, can teach you exercises tailored to your specific medical issues (arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.). Stretching exercises increase your flexibility and decrease pain and stiffness. Strength training helps you maintain muscle strength to support and protect joints.
  • Nutritional counseling. Dietitians and your rheumatologist will help you develop a sensible nutrition plan and maintain a healthy weight to prevent flare-ups.
  • Care from other specialists.  Because lupus can cause damage to any system in the body, you may need to get care from other specialists at Rush, such as nephrologists, cardiologists or neurologists.

Because you can make the most difference in your own care, you are encouraged to learn about lupus and become an active participant in your treatment.

Why choose Rush for lupus care

  • Lupus is a complex disease, but treatment at Rush is easy for you, the patient. The dedicated specialists at the Rush Lupus Clinic believe in educating and supporting you, while providing you with cutting-edge medical care. They coordinate everything for you, partnering with the wide range of health professionals needed to address your unique set of symptoms.
  • Rush Lupus Clinic physicians are known nationally and internationally for their research to improve quality of life and find better treatment options for people with lupus.
  • Laboratory testing, X-rays, bone mineral density testing and infusion room facilities are all located in the same suite as the clinic patient rooms, making it faster and easier for you to receive all of the care you need during your visits.

Departments and programs that treat this condition