Related Terms

  • SLE
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus


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Systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as SLE, or just lupus) is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects women of childbearing age. Its cause is unknown, but is believed to involve both genetic inheritance and factors in the environment. Whatever the cause, people with SLE develop antibodies against substances in their own bodies, including their DNA. These antibodies cause widespread damage and are believed to be primarily responsible for the many symptoms of this disease.SLE may begin with such symptoms as fatigue, weight loss, fever, malaise, and loss of appetite. Other common early symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, and facial rash. As SLE progresses, symptoms may develop in virtually every part of the body. Kidney damage is one of the most devastating effects of SLE, but many other serious problems may develop as well, including seizures, mental impairment, anemia, and inflammation of the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and digestive tract.Conventional treatment for SLE revolves around a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs. In mild cases, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help; more severe forms of SLE require long-term use of corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisone. The side effects of these medications can be quite serious themselves. So-called cytotoxic agents (azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, and chlorambucil) might also be helpful, but they have many side effects as well.Close physician supervision is always required with lupus due to the risk of complications in so many organs.

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