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Given the fact that lupus is a disease that is not a disease that is not extensively acknowledged by public health officials, the most pertinent question that most individuals have when first hearing about the disease is, what is lupus. According to an author , lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects nearly 16 million people per year. Lupus is characterized by the body's inability to recognize its own tissue. As a result, the immune system of the body-which normally makes antigens to fight off infection-begins to make antibodies that fight against normal human tissue such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Because the disease is an autoimmune disorder, researchers speculate that lupus is caused primarily by a genetic mutation, although there is currently no concrete evidence to support this claim.
As the body begins to generate antigens that slowly deteriorate the body's essential tissues, patients typically report a host of symptoms including:
- Achy joints
- Skin rashes
- Light sensitivity
- In severe cases, life-threatening kidney and blood-clotting problems
Despite reporting these symptoms to their physicians, however, an author notes that a diagnosis of lupus may take years because early symptoms of the disease are similar to symptoms associated with the flu-i.e. fatigue, weakness, and joint pain. In many cases, diagnosis of lupus if often delayed until a rash appears across the nose and cheeks.
Despite the fact that physicians and researchers seem to know a great deal about the onset and progression of the disease, the ontogenesis of lupus is still unknown. "Researchers don't know why, nor do they know what causes it in the first place". What researchers do know is that over the course of the last 20 years the death rate from lupus has risen 33 percent. While anyone can contract the disease, it is most common for women between the ages of 15 and 44. African American women have the greatest risk of contracting the disease overall. Currently there are few treatment protocols for lupus and there is no cure.