Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)- A Chronic Disease

What is SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is a chronic, inflammatory, multisystem disorder of the immune system. “Lupus” means wolf and Erythematosus means “redness.” Lupus is a Chronic Inflammatory Disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other ailments. Lupus is not contagious, infectious, or malignant.

Causes of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

The body develops antibodies that react against the person’s own normal tissue. Lupus is thus an autoimmune disease. These antibodies are markers for lupus, and are one indicator of many immune system abnormalities that lead to clinical manifestations. The course is unpredictable and individualized; no two patients are alike.

Types of  Lupus Erythematosus

There are four categories of lupus: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Cutaneous Lupus, Drug-Induced Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and Neonatal Lupus. SLE is the form of the disease that most people are referring to when they say “Lupus.” The word “systemic” means the disease can affect many parts of the body. The symptoms of SLE may be mild or serious. Although SLE usually first affects people between the ages of 15 and 45 years, it can occur in childhood or later in life as well.

Triggers of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

English: Common signs and symptoms of systemic...
English: Common signs and symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus. (See Wikipedia:Systemic lupus erythematosus#Signs and symptoms). To discuss image, please see Template talk:Human body diagrams References MedicineNet > Systemic Lupus (cont.) Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some potential triggers include:

  • Sunlight. Exposure to the sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response in susceptible people.
  • Medications. Lupus can be triggered by certain types of anti-seizure medications, blood pressure medications and antibiotics. People who have drug-induced lupus usually see their symptoms go away when they stop taking the medication.

Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

No two cases of Systemic Lupus are exactly alike. SLE Symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly, may be mild or severe, and may be temporary or permanent. Most people with Systemic Lupus have mild disease characterized by episodes called flares.  The Signs and Symptoms of Lupus that you experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion, memory loss

Risk Factors of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Factors that may increase your risk of lupus include:

lupus erythematosus
lupus erythematosus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Your sex. Lupus is more common in women.
  • Age. Although lupus affects people of all ages, it’s most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40.
  • Race. Lupus is more common in African Americans, Hispanics and Asians.

Complications of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus can also lead to complications in several areas of the body. These include:-

  • Kidneys – Serious kidney damage is a primary cause of death for Systemic Lupus sufferers.
  • Central Nervous SystemSystemic Lupus can cause headaches, dizziness, memory problems, seizures, and behavioral changes.
  • Blood and VesselsSystemic Lupus causes an increased risk of anemia, bleeding, blood clotting, and vessel inflammation
  • LungsNoninfectious pneumonia and difficulty breathing due to inflammation of the chest cavity are more likely with Lupus
  • Heart – Heart muscle and artery inflammation are more likely with the disease, Systemic Lupus increases the chances of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
  • InfectionSystemic Lupus treatments tend to depress the immune system making your body more vulnerable to infection.
  • CancerSystemic Lupus increases the risk of cancer, especially of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, and liver cancer
  • Bone Tissue Death – A lower blood supply to bone tissue leads to tiny breaks and eventual death of bone. This is most common in the hip bone.
  • PregnancyLupus increases the risk of miscarriage, hypertension during pregnancy, and preterm birth.

Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

The type of treatment someone gets often depends on how severe the Systemic Lupus is and which body systems are affected. Almost all people with Systemic Lupus (SLE ) take some kind of medicine to help control their lupus. Patients whose joints hurt often take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) to help with the pain.

Others take Anti-Malarial drugs (medicines first developed to prevent and treat malaria, but that have also been found to help treat lupus). Anti-Malarial drugs often help treat skin rashes and joint pain.

Some rheumatologists prescribe Anti-Inflammatory Steroids, medicines that help fight the fatigue and fever that can affect people with Systemic Lupus (SLE). People with lupus that affects important body organs may be given other Immunosuppressive Drugs. These drugs help stop the immune system from producing the autoantibodies that destroy healthy cells. These drugs are very strong, though, and can have side effects. So they are used only when it’s really necessary.

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