Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
(Lupus; SLE; Lupus, Systemic)
Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a problem with the immune system. It causes the immune system to make antibodies that attack the body's healthy cells and tissue. There are many forms of lupus, but SLE is the most common.
The cause is unknown.
SLE is more common in women aged 15-45 years old. It is also more common in people who are Black, Asian, and Hispanic.
Other factors that raise your risk are:
Symptoms can be mild or very severe. It can affect one part of the body or many. Though symptoms can be lasting, there are often times without symptoms in between.
You may have:
Fever without signs of infection
Swollen and painful joints
Skin rashes over areas exposed to sunlight, especially a butterfly shaped rash over the nose and cheeks
Sensitivity to light
Nausea and vomiting
Facial butterfly rash is a hallmark symptom of SLE.
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Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Symptoms differ for each person and change over time, making it hard to diagnose.
You may have:
Images taken with an
MRI scan Skin biopsy
SLE can’t be cured. Symptoms can be managed with medicines and lifestyle changes. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. It will depend on the severity and location of your symptoms.
There are many medicines that are used, such as:
Drugs to suppress the immune system
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
You may need to take more than one of these medicines.
Some changes can help you prevent flare-ups. Changes to your medicines may also be used to prevent them. Work with your doctor to make a plan. This may mean that you:
Learn the signs of a flare-up and call your doctor right away
Get treatment for any cuts or infections right away
Manage symptoms for other chronic health problems
Avoid sun exposure
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit
Eat healthy foods
Get enough rest
Exercise regularly if your doctor says it is okay
SLE is best managed with strong communication between you and your healthcare team. Make sure to go to all appointments as advised. Let your doctor know about any changes in your health or care program.
Depression in people with SLE is common. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. If you are still having problems, seek counseling or join a support group.
There is no way to prevent SLE since the cause is not known.
Lupus Foundation of America
Lupus Research Institute
http://www.lupusresearchinstitute.org CANADIAN RESOURCES:
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Handout on health: Systemic lupus erythematosus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed August 15, 2018.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
. Updated July 20, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2018.
Understanding lupus. Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed August 15, 2018.
12/4/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Hartkamp A, Geenen R, Godaert GL, et al. Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone on fatigue and well-being in women with quiescent systemic lupus erythematosus. A randomized controlled trial.
Ann Rheum Dis.
5/6/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Smyth A, Oliveira GH, Lahr BD, et al.
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: Ludvigsson JF, Rubio-Tapia A, Chowdhary V, Murray JA, Simard JF. Increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus in 29,000 patients with biopsy-verified celiac disease. J Rheumatol. 2012;39(10):1964-1970.
Last reviewed May 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 8/15/2018