Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

(Lupus; SLE; Lupus, Systemic)

Definition

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of joints, tendons, skin, blood vessels and other connective tissue, and organs. SLE causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the body's healthy cells and tissue.Of all the forms of lupus, SLE is the most common and most well-known.

Causes

The cause of SLE is unknown. It is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors

SLE is more common in women aged 20-45 years old. It is also more common in people of African American, Native American, and Hispanic descent. Other factors that increase your chance of developing SLE include:
  • Family history
  • Celiac disease

Symptoms

Symptoms can be mild or very severe. For some people, only part of the body, such as skin, is affected. For others, many parts are affected. Though symptoms can be chronic, they can flare up and get better on and off.Common symptoms may include:
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Swollen and/or painful joints
  • Fever without signs of infection
  • Skin rashes over areas exposed to sunlight, especially butterfly shaped rash over the nose and cheeks
Common SLE Rash Sites
Lupus rash
Facial butterfly rash is hallmark of SLE.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Other symptoms may depend on the area of the body that is affected:
  • Affected skin may become sensitive to light, have hives or red or purple rashes, or have hair loss
  • Affected muscles may become stiff and weak
  • Affected stomach and intestines may cause nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
  • Affected brain and nerves may lead to psychiatric disorders, such as depression, seizures, and nerve pain and numbness
SLE may cause complications during pregnancy. There may be a flare-up of symptoms, kidney problems, or pre-eclampsia . There is also an increased risk of premature birth , stillbirth , miscarriage , or growth problems wiht the baby during pregnancy.

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