What is lupus, what are its symptoms, and why does it affect women more than men?

Lupus, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune condition affecting the immune system and the body’s ability to defend against illness.

Instead of protecting the body against infection, lupus causes the immune system to attack healthy organs, tissues, and cells.

Affecting many different parts of the body, the condition is most commonly associated with fatigue, joint pain and swelling, and a red rash that tends to appear on the face.

The condition is often misunderstood and although medical professionals have yet to figure out exactly why it affects the body in the way it does, it’s assumed that the condition is related to genetics or environmental factors.

Lupus disproportionately affects women, with females of child-bearing age being nine times more likely to develop the condition than men.

The symptoms of lupus can vary from patient to patient but the most common ones are as follows.


People with lupus can suffer from skin rashes leaving red patches on their face, wrists, and hands. The most common rash developing from lupus is the ‘butterfly rash’ that appears on the cheeks and bridge of the nose.

It’s not uncommon for lupus rashes to be permanent. They can also become more noticeable and irritable when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight.

Joint pain and swelling

A lupus patient can experience joint pain and swelling in their hands and feet, though the condition does not usually cause permanent damage to joints.


Most people with lupus tend to suffer from fatigue, leaving them exhausted when trying to carry out what would usually be considered mundane tasks.

Although it’s normal for everybody to feel tired once in a while, this fatigue is so strong it could leave patients unable to carry out their work or social commitments.

Others symptoms of the condition include high temperature, swollen lymph glands found in the neck and armpits, anaemia, depression, high blood pressure, migraine, and hair loss.


Lupus is an uncommon condition, however it does affect a lot more women than men.

This is because the mutated genes that cause the condition are often found in the X chromosome. Women are born with two X chromosomes as opposed to men who are born with just one.

As well as this, it’s widely believed that the genes a person inherits from their parents affect their chances of developing lupus.

A study found that if one person in a set of twins has the condition, then the other has a one in four chance of developing it in later life.

Although there is no cure for lupus, there are plenty of ways to treat it.

Various medications that reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system can be provided for patients. Protecting the skin from the sun is also recommended.

In 2017, singer Selena Gomez revealed that she had been suffering from lupus and, as a result of the condition, had to have a kidney transplant.

Kidney transplants are only necessary when lupus leads to a patient developing end-stage kidney disease.

In Gomez’s case, the singer had undergone chemotherapy to battle the disease. She also said she had experienced panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.

The singer received a kidney from her best friend, Francia Raisa, who provided her with “the ultimate gift and sacrifice.”

She said: “She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis.”

To read more about lupus, visit the HSE website.


Source: https://www.her.ie/health/what-is-lupus-389870

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