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Lupus Factsheet (for Schools)

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
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What Teachers Should Know

Lupus is a disease that causes the immune system to mistakenly work against the body's own tissues and attack healthy cells. Lupus can affect almost any organ.

Symptoms of lupus — such as joint or muscle pain, extreme fatigue, rashes, mouth ulcers, and hair loss — can vary widely from person to person. Other common symptoms are:

  • sensitivity to sunlight 
  • arthritis
  • seizures
  • kidney problems
  • inflammation of the lining around the heart, lungs, and belly

Doctors don’t know what causes lupus. But it can be triggered an infection, medicine, or extreme stress.

There are three kinds of lupus:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common kind, can affect multiple organs.
  • Cutaneous (skin) lupus usually affects only the skin, with rashes on the scalp, legs, or arms.
  • Drug-induced lupus happens as a reaction to certain medicines. Symptoms usually go away when patients stop taking the medicine.

Almost all people with lupus take medicine to control inflammation and reduce the risk of flare-ups, (times when symptoms get worse).

How Can Teachers Help?

If your student is not having a flare-up, encourage them to participate in all classroom and physical education activities. Regular exercise can help prevent fatigue and joint stiffness. 

During flare-ups, students with lupus may feel much more tired, sick, feverish, and achy than usual. Make sure you know your student's symptoms, and work with parents and other educators to make a plan that promotes your student's academic and personal success. 

Students with lupus may:

  • need to sit in a warm area of a classroom and be able to move away from sick classmates
  • need to visit the school nurse for medicines or to rest during flare-ups
  • need accommodations for missing class time or assignments due to absences because of flare-ups or medical appointments
  • need to sit out or take a break from physical activity during flare ups
  • need to wear sunscreen or protective clothing, or limit time outdoors
  • have trouble concentrating and staying on task
  • need extra time to move between classes
  • need adaptive equipment to complete assignments
  • benefit from having an individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 education plan

You can find more information at The Lupus Foundation of America.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: May 2020