Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune disease and may be of several types. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) manifests through attacking parts of the body, organs and cells, causing severe damage. SLE is not a curable disease, but may be managed with medication. Remission periods are also common.

Causes of SLE

Lupus Erythematosus occurs mostly in women, typically of non-European descent, and its causes are believed to be genetic. However, additional research is required to confirm this theory. The triggering factors of the disease may be exposure to UV, excessive drug administration, intensive hormonal activity (the disease occurs more commonly during female reproductive years), exposure to toxins or stress.

Symptoms of SLE

SLE is a tricky condition, as the symptoms may often be mistaken for different conditions. Most commonly, the disease will manifest through skin rashes (the malar rash), visible on the face in the shape of a butterfly, but there may be also other symptoms such as:

  • Non-erosive arthritis and joint pain
  • Lethargy
  • Constant elevated fever
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Ulcers affecting the mouth or nose
  • Skin lesions
  • Anemia
  • Swelling of the padding of various organs such as the heart, lungs or liver, resulting in pain
  • Headaches (the lupus headache)
  • Temporary cognitive dysfunction
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

Not all these symptoms may be present in all patients, but the presence of any two or more of these symptoms should be further investigated.

Diagnosing SLE

The diagnosis of SLE can be made based on tests such as the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test and the anti-extractable nuclear antigen (anti ENA) test; however, even healthy individuals may test positive in certain cases. There are 11 symptoms of lupus, and if the patient has any four of these, they are diagnosed with SLE:

  • Serositis or the inflammation of the passing of any organ
  • Ulcers in the mouth, nose or vaginal area
  • Joint pain and/or swelling of joints
  • Sensitivity to light, resulting in lupus flare-ups (facial rashes)
  • Anemia and low red or white blood cells
  • Increased levels of protein in the urine
  • Positive ANA test
  • Positive anti Smith and anti ds DNA test; false positive for syphilis
  • Seizures and/or psychosis
  • The malar rash on the cheeks
  • Scaly patches on skin that will cause scars

Treatment Options for Systemic Lupus

The treatment of systemic lupus may vary according to the severity of the symptoms:

  • Medication treatment with antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids, cytotoxic drugs or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Intravenous immunoglobulins, administered if the disease affects any internal organs
  • Avoiding sunlight and other triggers of flare-ups
  • Renal transplant, only required if the disease attacks the kidneys

Painkillers should be administered if there is joint pain. Stronger opiates may be necessary if the pain is severe.