Lupus is described by the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) as a “chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body).”

Lupus Facts and Information

Your autoimmune system protects you from viruses, bacteria and other foreign matter that are deemed harmful. However, lupus does the opposite – it triggers your autoimmune system to attack healthy tissue instead.

Experts are not sure how lupus forms, but it is believed that a combination of external and internal factors are responsible, such as genetics, and a random encounter of a virus while you’re out in the open.

Americans Affected With Lupus

According to the LFA, 1.5 million U.S. citizens are affected with lupus today. Statistics show that 16,000 cases of lupus are reported annually, but the number can be higher than that. Majority of those affected with lupus are women of ages 15 to 44.

There are also famous people that have been diagnosed with this condition. Some notable celebrities with lupus include:

Seal — The Grammy Award-winning singer has suffered from discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) since the age of 23, causing his facial scars.

Selena Gomez — The singer-actress was forced to take a break from performing in late 2013 to 2014 after she was diagnosed with the disease.

Shannon Boxx — An athlete for the women’s soccer U.S. National Team, Boxx was diagnosed with lupus in 2007, and now works with the LFA to raise awareness of the disease.

Nick Cannon — After being diagnosed in 2012, the actor-entertainer became inspired to generate awareness by serving as Grand Marshall for the LFA’s event Walk to End Lupus Now.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Each case of lupus is unique because you never know which part of your body will be attacked. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of lupus can be hard to detect because they are similar to other ailments such as fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath and joint pain, but the Mayo Clinic notes that one unique symptom on most forms of lupus are facial rashes.

To be diagnosed with lupus, you need to go through several blood and urine tests, such as complete blood count, kidney and liver assessment, and antinuclear antibody test, due to the symptoms being unique for every person affected.

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*Article originally appeared at Mercola.