Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), also called lupus, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system (the cells in the body that fight infection) incorrectly attack the
body's own tissues and organs, leading to inflammation and damage. Lupus most
commonly affects women of childbearing age but also occurs in children, adolescents,
and men. The cause of lupus is unknown, but it has been associated with genetic,
environmental, and infectious causes. The disorder may affect almost all organs
in the body, with the kidney being most commonly involved. The disorder may
be mild in some cases (for example, only involving the skin) and very severe
in other cases (affecting multiple organs, including the brain). The disease
course is characterized by flares (intervals of active
disease) and remissions (intervals of inactive disease).
The June 22/29, 2005, issue of JAMA includes an article
that describes the available treatments for the kidney disease associated
Because lupus can affect any organ of the body, it causes a wide range
of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms are
Fever (maximum temperature usually less than 102°F)
Joint pain or swelling (most commonly in the hands, wrists, and
Rash (typically in a "butterfly" distribution on the face, across
the cheeks, and under the eyes)
Painless ulcers in the mouth or nose
Photosensitivity (the development of
a rash on sun-exposed skin)
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination,
your doctor will order blood tests to measure your red blood
cells (cells that carry oxygen in the blood), platelets (important for blood clotting), and white blood
cells (the cells of the immune system). Your doctor may also order
blood tests to assess for any organ damage and to measure the extent of inflammation
and autoimmune activity. Your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist (a doctor with specialized training in autoimmune disorders).
There is no cure for lupus, but appropriate treatment can prevent or
slow the disease process and control the associated symptoms. Lupus is treated
with medications that target the body's immune system. Medication choices
depend on the severity of disease and the specific organs involved. Additional
medications may be prescribed for specific symptoms, such as joint pain, and
for other manifestations of the disorder, such as high blood pressure if there
is kidney disease.
Lupus Foundation of America202/349-1155http://www.lupus.org
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases877/22-NIAMShttp://www.niams.nih.gov
American College of Rheumatology404/633-3777http://www.rheumatology.org
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
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Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin
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TOPIC: AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS
Ringold S, Lynm C, Glass RM. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. JAMA. 2005;293(24):3130. doi:10.1001/jama.293.24.3130