Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of joints, tendons, skin, blood vessels and other connective tissue, and organs. Lupus causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the body's healthy cells and tissue.
There are four forms of lupus:
The cause of SLE (lupus) is unknown. The manifestations of the disease are due to antibodies that attack the body's own tissues. Why these antibodies appear is unknown. There are certainly genetic factors involved: identical twins share the disease one-quarter to one-half of the time, and it tends to run in families. The disease may be triggered by environmental factors, such as infections or chemicals.
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that approximately 1.4 million Americans have a form of lupus. Ninety percent of people diagnosed with the disease are women; 80% develop it between the ages of 15-45. Lupus is 2-3 times more prevalent among people of color, including African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native-Americans.
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.lupus.org .
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Last reviewed [Under Medical Review] by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Last Updated: 9/1/2011
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