Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the inflammation-causing immune cells attack the body's own tissues. It can affect different parts of the body, such as the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, and cardiovascular system, and cause a wide variety of symptoms. Some cases are very mild, whereas others may be disabling or fatal. Ninety percent of people with lupus experience inflammation of their connective tissue, with symptoms often similar to rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disease. Other common symptoms include rashes, sensitivity to sunlight, and kidney disorders.
No one really understands the cause or causes of lupus. Fever is common at its onset, suggesting that a bacterial or viral infection initiates the immune response (although inadequate vitamin B1 also may cause fever). The hormone estrogen may influence lupus because it is most often diagnosed in women between their late teens and thirties. However, a hormonal link is tempered by the fact that estrogen therapies have not been useful as a treatment. It is conceivable that a woman's immune systems is simply biologically different in some ways from that of a man.
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