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What are some basic facts about lupus?

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Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects any part of the body, states the Lupus Foundation of America. It lasts anywhere from six weeks to many years, and it afflicts at least 1.5 million Americans, with 16,000 new diagnoses annually. With lupus, a person's body cannot differentiate between healthy tissues and foreign invaders, such as the flu or a cold. As a result, it creates autoantibodies that damage healthy tissue and lead to pain, swelling and injury throughout the body.

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Lupus fluctuates between exhibiting a lot of symptoms and being in remission with few or no symptoms, explains the Lupus Foundation of America. Although some treatments of lupus involve chemotherapy, lupus and cancer are not related. While cancer is the growth and spread of malignant tissues, lupus is an autoimmune disorder. Unlike AIDS, in which the immune system is suppressed, lupus is defined by an overactive immune system.

Lupus is not contagious in any form, notes the Lupus Foundation of America. Medical care is imperative for people suffering with lupus, as the symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. Although people of all races and ethnic groups can be afflicted with lupus, women of color are two to three times more likely to develop the disease than Caucasians. Women of childbearing age tend to suffer from lupus the most, although men, children and adolescents develop it as well.

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