We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
For more information, go to

Lupus (SLE)

Print page Open all Reset all

What is lupus?

There are two main forms of lupus:
  • discoid lupus, which only affects your skin
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which affects your skin and joints, and can also involve your internal organs including your heart or kidney.

This section only deals with the systemic type of lupus.

Lupus occurs when your immune system attacks your body’s own tissues. It can cause inflammation in many different parts of your body, though most people will only have a few of the possible symptoms.

Read more >

What are the symptoms of lupus?

Symptoms of lupus can include:
  • joint pain
  • a skin rash
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • headaches
  • mouth ulcers
  • hair loss
  • swelling of lymph glands
  • your fingers or toes changing colour in cold conditions

Lupus can have more serious complications if the inflammation affects your internal organs such as your heart, brain or kidneys, so you’ll need regular check-ups with your doctor for early signs of these complications.

Read more >

Who gets lupus?

Lupus is more common in young women of Chinese, African or Caribbean origin. Read more >

What causes lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, but we don’t yet know why it develops. Read more >

What is the outlook for lupus?

It’s hard to predict exactly how lupus will affect you, but your doctor will suggest treatments and/or lifestyle changes aimed at reducing the risks of complications. Read more >

How is lupus diagnosed?

Lupus can mimic other, more common conditions, so you’ll probably have a number of tests before the diagnosis is confirmed. Read more >

What treatments are there for lupus?

Treatment is with a combination of drugs and self-help measures, which will vary depending on your particular symptoms.

Drugs may include:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs
  • steroid tablets, creams or injections
  • drugs which suppress your immune system
  • drugs to control high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Read more >

Self-help and daily living for lupus

If you have lupus, you can help yourself by:
  • not smoking
  • protecting your skin from strong sunlight
  • dressing to keep your hands and feet warm in cold weather
  • resting when the condition is most active but otherwise taking regular exercise
  • pacing yourself and planning your activities
Read more >

Pregnancy and lupus

You should be able to have a baby if you want to, but it’s best to discuss your plans with your doctors before trying for a baby. Read more >

Research and new developments for lupus

New therapeutic approaches that target cells and molecules believed to be part of the cause of lupus are now being used. Read more >


Photo of Christine Walker

Give today to help fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis so that people like Christine can live a pain-free, active life.

Search arthritis information

For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.