Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus)

Lupus is what's known as an autoimmune condition. In these types of conditions, the body's immune system produces antibodies that attack a person's own healthy tissue as if it was a foreign body, like bacteria or a virus. Lupus is a complex condition that affects different people in different ways. It may affect joints and skin. It can also affect blood vessels and internal organs.

Around one in every 900 people in New Zealand is diagnosed with lupus. It's more common in Māori and Pacific peoples and in other ethnic groups with darker skin. It can occur in men, women and children, but it's much more common in women.

Do I have lupus?

Lupus rashLupus can be very hard to diagnose because it has many symptoms and can show in different ways. It can also seem like several other conditions. Some of the key symptoms of lupus are:

If you have some of these symptoms, visit your GP for further assessment. Your GP will ask some questions and may examine you. They may also perform some blood tests and check your blood pressure and urine. If they feel that you might have lupus, they are likely to refer you to a rheumatologist.

How is lupus treated?

There is no cure for lupus, but you can manage and control it with medication and lifestyle changes. People with lupus now have a normal life expectancy. But if you have lupus you will sometimes have "flares" of symptoms. Environmental factors, such as hormones and hormonal contraception, sunlight and UV light, and certain medications can trigger these.

You can find out more about lupus through the following links.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by rheumatologist, Department of Rheumatology, Immunology & Allergy, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed December 2017. Last updated June 2019.

See also:


Medications for inflammatory arthritis

Page reference: 78715

Review key: HILUP-78715