Does Your Child have Lupus?

May is Lupus Awareness Month, a good time to learn about lupus in children so that parents can be aware of signs and symptoms that may warrant a visit to their child’s pediatrician orpediatric specialist.Matthew Adams portrait

Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), can affect many parts of the body and occurs when the immune system attacks and creates inflammation in the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system or other organs.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, about 20% of people with lupus develop the disease before 20 years of age, although it is rare to get lupus before age 5. People with lupus can have times when the disease is very active, called a flare, and times when the disease is mostly quiet, called remission.

Matthew D. Adams, M.D chief of Rheumatology, on staff at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, says although the cause of lupus is unknown, experts believe it may be a combination of environmental factors (including a virus, sun or drug reactions) and personal factors such as hormones related to puberty, and/or a genetic predisposition to have an overactive immune system.

Children or teens with the following symptoms should seek a visit to their doctor for further diagnosis.  

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Arthritis or joint pain 
  • "Butterfly rash" on the cheeks and bridge of the nose, or other rashes
  • Sores in the mouth or nose
  • Seizures or other nervous system problems (depression, psychosis)
  • Fluid around the heart or lungs
  • Kidney problems (abnormal urine tests)
  • Problems with the blood such as anemia or easy bruising, low platelets, low white blood cell numbers

Dr. Adams says lupus is diagnosed by a combination of physical symptoms and abnormal blood tests.

Lupus can be life-threatening, especially if it affects organs such as the heart, lungs, brain or kidneys. Although there is no cure for lupus, proper treatment can be life saving and prevent permanent disability.  With proper treatment, many people with lupus go on to live full and productive lives, going on to school, having a job and a family.  

Get more information on a lupus support group offered at the Children's Hospital of Michigan.

For further information on lupus visit