What is systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus?
Lupus is an
autoimmune disease, which means that the body's
natural defense system (immune system) attacks its own tissues
instead of attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. This causes
inflammation. Inflammation causes swelling, pain, and tissue damage throughout
the body. If you develop severe lupus, you may have problems with your kidneys,
heart, lungs, nervous system, or blood cells. Lupus is the common name for
systemic lupus erythematosus, also called SLE.
people with lupus have only mild symptoms, the disease is lifelong and can
become severe. But most people can control their symptoms and prevent severe
damage to their organs. They do this by seeing their doctors often for
checkups, getting enough rest and exercise, and taking medicines.
This topic focuses on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common
and most serious type of lupus. But there are four other types of lupus:
discoid or cutaneous lupus, drug-induced systemic lupus, neonatal lupus, and
subacute cutaneous lupus.
What causes lupus?
The exact cause of lupus is not
known. Experts believe that some people are born with certain
genes that affect how the immune system works and that
they are more likely to get lupus. Then a number of other factors can trigger
lupus attacks. These include viral infections, including the virus that causes
mononucleosis, and sunlight.
Although these things can trigger
lupus, they may affect one person but not another person.
What are the symptoms?
Lupus symptoms vary
widely, and they come and go. The times when symptoms get worse are called
relapses, or flares. The times when symptoms are under control are called
Common symptoms include feeling very tired and having
joint pain or swelling (arthritis), a fever, and a
skin rash . The rash often happens after you have been in the sun. Mouth sores
and hair loss may occur. Over time, some people with lupus have problems with
the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood cells, or
How is lupus diagnosed?
There is no single test
for lupus. Because lupus affects different people in different ways, it can be
hard to diagnose.
Your doctor will check for lupus by examining
you, asking you questions about your medical history and common symptoms, and doing some urine and blood tests. It
is easier for your doctor to diagnose lupus if you have the most common
symptoms and your blood has certain proteins. These proteins are called
antibodies, or ANAs. But other problems can cause your
body to make ANAs, so doctors will use blood tests and other tests to find out
if you have lupus.
How is it treated?
Lupus is treated by:
- Applying corticosteroid cream for
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for mild joint or muscle pain and
- Taking antimalarial medicines to treat fatigue, joint pain,
and skin rashes.
corticosteroids if other medicines are not controlling