Systemic lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a long-term autoimmune disorder that may affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease, which means the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. This leads to long-term (chronic) inflammation.

The underlying cause of autoimmune diseases is not fully known.

SLE is much more common in women than men. It may occur at any age, but appears most often in people between the ages of 10 and 50. African Americans and Asians are affected more often than people from other races.

SLE may also be caused by certain drugs. For information on this cause, see Drug-induced lupus erythematosus

Hepatitis C has an acute and chronic form. Most people who are infected with the virus develop chronic hepatitis C.

About 1.5% of the U.S. population is infected with HCV.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary from person to person, and may come and go. Almost everyone with SLE has joint pain and swelling. Some develop arthritis. Frequently affected joints are the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees.

  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever with no other cause
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Skin rash -- a "butterfly" rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose affects about half of people with SLE. The rash gets worse in sunlight. The rash may also be widespread.
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Other symptoms depend on what part of the body is affected:

  • Brain and nervous system: headaches, numbness, tingling, seizures, vision problems, personality changes
  • Digestive tract: abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
  • Heart: abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Lung: coughing up blood and difficulty breathing
  • Skin: patchy skin color, fingers that change color when cold (Raynaud's phenomenon). Some patients only have skin symptoms. This is called discoid lupus.

Additional information available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001471/

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