Lupus was, until recently, a little known illness effecting the immune system whereby the body essentially turns against itself.
However, it is now believed to be an extremely common disease affecting more people than AIDS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis combined.
Lupus causes the immune system to lose its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and as a result it begins to attack the body's own tissue and organs, including the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood, and skin.
The initial symptoms of lupus include mouth ulcers, joint pain, hair loss and general stiffness and tiredness. However, the illness can lead to more serious condition such as inflammation of the vital organs and blood clots in the lung.
Lupus is not generally a fatal disease but approximately 10% of all Lupus suffers will succumb to the illness, usually when the illness was not detected at an early stage.
Lupus cannot be fully cured but it can be effectively controlled with drugs to allow the patient to live a long, healthy life.