Lupus is a chronic disease that involves your immune system.

Your immune system is like a bodyguard against invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and other germs. Normally, your immune system works to fight off these invaders. But in the case of lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s healthy tissues, causing inflammation in multiple symptoms affecting multiple organ systems.

Normal Immune System

A normal immune system produces B cells which make antibodies that destroy and control harmful substances, such as viruses, bacteria and germs, as shown below.

Normal B Cell: This type of white blood cell produces antibodies

Antibody: Antibodies attach themselves to germs and try to control or destroy them

BLyS: B Lymphocyte Stimulator (BLyS) is a protein that helps some cells grow

Healthy body tissue

Germs: Viruses, bacteria, and other invaders

Abnormal Immune System

For a person with lupus, the immune system produces autoreactive B-cells, which make a type of protein called autoantibodies. These autoantibodies attack your own body, leading to inflammation.

Autoreactive B Cell: These are the “bad” version of B cells that make harmful autoantibodies

Autoantibody: While antibodies protect the body, autoantibodies work against the body

Chemicals that cause inflammation

Inflamed body tissue: A sign of lupus disease activity

Who is affected by lupus?

  • It is thought that worldwide, over 5 million people have some form of lupus.
  • Women of childbearing age are most likely to develop lupus. In fact, lupus occurs 10 times more often in women than in men.
  • Women of color are also more likely to develop lupus, compared to Caucasian women.
  • In Trial 2 and Trial 3, responsive rates for the primary endpoint were lower for black subjects in the BENLYSTA group relative to black subjects in the placebo group. Use with caution in black/African American patients.

How does someone get lupus? Is it contagious?

Lupus is not contagious. The causes of lupus are not fully understood; scientists believe there are several factors that may cause a person to develop lupus. These include:

  • Genetics. Several genes have been identified as possibly causing lupus. It has also been established that if there is a family history of lupus, this may predispose a person to developing the disease.
  • Environment. Scientists are looking at the link between lupus and certain environmental factors, such as UV exposure, stress, viruses, and toxins.
  • Hormones. Because lupus affects a greater number of women than men, it is thought that hormones, particularly estrogen, might play a role in triggering the disease.