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What is lupus? Lupus symptoms, facts and more

Here are the symptoms of lupus, how it is diagnosed, causes and treatment. Selena Gomez underwent a kidney transplant due to the frightening autoimmune disease.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage the skin, joints, organs or other parts of the body, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. It causes a person's immune system to attack healthy tissue, triggering inflammation and pain.

Up to 60 percent of people who receive a lupus diagnosis will develop kidney disease at some point in their lives. The illness garnered significant attention in 2017 when pop star Selena Gomez revealed she had undergone a kidney transplant because of the disease.

What are the symptoms of lupus?

Some of the most common symptoms include extreme fatigue, headaches, painful or swollen joints, fever, anemia, a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, and hair loss, according to the Lupus Foundation.

Some people with lupus may see their fingers turn white or blue in the cold, known as Raynaud's phenomenon. Some experience no symptoms.

How do you get lupus?

No one knows what actually causes lupus, but viral infections, hormones, genetics and environmental toxins seem to be some of the culprits being studied. Right now, there's no way to prevent lupus, said Ken Farber, president and CEO of the Lupus Research Alliance.

The disease is most common in women aged 19 to 60, and more likely to afflict women of color.

What are lupus rashes?

About two-thirds of people with lupus will experience skin-related symptoms, with one of the most distinctive being a rash on the face that resembles the wings of a butterfly across the nose and both cheeks. Also called a malar rash, the red skin looks like a sunburn. Patients may also get rashes on any part of their bodies exposed to the sun.

How is lupus diagnosed?

Lupus is especially difficult to diagnose because there's no simple blood test for it. A variety of tests must be interpreted by physicians, primarily rheumatologists, according to Farber. An accurate diagnosis can take time — almost six years, according to the Lupus Foundation.

How is lupus treated?

Lupus can be life-threatening and there is no cure, but medicines and lifestyle changes can help control it. Treatments can lessen the severity of the pain, including anti-inflammatory medication and immunosuppressants. Kidney disease is one of the most common complications of lupus, although not every patient will need a transplant or dialysis.