Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which affects hundreds of Saint Louis area residents, is a chronic, autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in parts of the body such as the central nervous system (CNS) including the brain, kidneys, heart, lungs, skin, and joints. People suffering from the disease can face various problems in their daily lives, including extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and severe kidney and CNS manifestations. SLE strikes more people than AIDS, sickle cell anemia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined. It affects one out of every 185 Americans, 90 percent of whom are women. African/Americans and women between the ages of 15 and 45 are at the highest risk of contracting the disease, which has no cure. Symptoms include a rash on the face or other body parts, joint pain, and fatigue. Cases range from mild to life threatening.

"Lupus is often called the 'Great Masquerader' because its symptoms are often confused with those of other medical conditions," Dr. Moore said. "This makes the disease extremely difficult to diagnose. "