According to Lupus Canada, lupus is a chronic disease with a variety of symptoms caused by inflammation in one or more parts of the body. It is not contagious and is not related to AIDS or cancer. It belongs in the family of diseases that includes rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, and scleroderma.

More than five million people worldwide live with lupus and each year over a hundred thousand young women, men and children are newly diagnosed with it, the great majority of who are women of childbearing age. The fact that women are considerably more likely to develop lupus than men suggests that hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, play a key role in the immune system. Men and women both produce estrogen, but estrogen production is much greater in females.

Even though the number of people living with lupus is more common than leukemia, multiple sclerosis & muscular dystrophy combined, it is still relatively unknown.

The most common type of lupus is SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) which is a condition that can target any tissue or organ of the body, including skin, muscles, joints, blood and blood vessels, lungs, heart, kidneys, and the brain.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The nickname for lupus is “the disease of 1000 faces” because the symptoms vary so drastically from person to person, and is often a challenge for doctors to diagnose. People can live for years with lupus and not have the proper treatment due to a misdiagnosis or simply not being able to recognize it. Since there is no definitive test to diagnose lupus, it often goes unrecognized because the symptoms may be mistaken for many common illnesses, which means you can be treated for conditions you may not have.

A diagnosis of lupus is often made through a combination of the history of symptoms (as listed following), blood tests that focus on particular antibodies, and results of tests for affected body systems such as the kidneys:

  • Painful or swollen joints;
  • Unexplained fever;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Swelling in the legs / eyes;
  • Mouth ulcers / nose ulcers;
  • Sensitivity to the sun;
  • Swollen glands;
  • Pale fingers / toes;
  • Extreme fatigue;
  • Seizures;
  • Skin rashes;
  • Anemia;
  • Night fevers;
  • Hair loss.

Lupus is characterized by:

  • Flares: the symptoms worsen and you feel ill;
  • A chronic phase: symptoms may continue but are less severe;
  • Remissions: symptoms improve and you feel better for long periods, but can return.

It can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full and productive life.

Building an awareness, early detection and early treatment is paramount in managing lupus, offsetting its long term effects and has improved the life expectancy of patients so that nowadays it is seldom seen to be fatal.

More details can be found at the following links:

Lupus Canada:
This site includes electronic versions of the Living Well with Lupus fact sheets.
Canadian Network for Improved Outcomes in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus:

The Arthritis Foundation:

Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre Foundation:
One of the three foundations at University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto.

Osteoporosis Canada:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease:

Lupus Foundation of America:

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide:

Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living:

Canadian Diabetes Association:

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada:; (613) 569-4361

MedlinePlus Health Information: High Risk Pregnancy Resources:

The Motherisk Program at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto:

Dietitians of Canada:
Interactive online tool EATracker helps people to track their daily food and activity choices

Helpful tool for guidance on using the Nutrition Facts table:

Healthy Eating messages from dietitians:

Eat Right Ontario:

Immunizations and Vaccines Public Health Agency of Canada:

Canadian Immunization Guide, 2002:

World Health Organization Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals:

Sjogren’s Society of Canada:

Medline Plus Health Information: Blood and Blood Disorders:

Although this site is American, search “lupus, Canada” for links to trials being conducted in this country

Alliance for Lupus Research:
A voluntary health organization based in New York City that funds lupus research