Systemic erythematosus lupus is an inflammatory and chronic autoimmune condition. Lupus, or SLE, may affect organs, such as kidneys, liver and heart. Lupus also commonly affects skin and joints. Typically, lupus occurs when the immune system is dysfunctional. Normally, the function of the immune system is to stave off substances and conditions that can harm the body and cause illness. Patients with SLE experience overactive immune responses that may harm healthy tissue and cells.
Because systemic erythematosus lupus provokes an attack on healthy tissue, an inflammatory response may occur. Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of lupus. Most often, the joints also are affected. Occasionally, in more advanced cases of lupus, the heart may be involved. Although symptoms may vary widely, many patients experience similar symptoms of joint pain and rashes.
Typical symptoms of systemic erythematosus lupus include pain and swelling in the hands, fingers and wrists. The knees are also often affected by lupus. Knees frequently swell and stiffen as a result. Limitation in mobility is a common complaint of an SLE patient. Other symptoms may include fatigue, a characteristic butterfly facial rash and pleurisy. Occasionally, hair loss, visual deficits and abdominal pain may occur. Chest pain is an ominous sign, as it may indicate cardiac inflammation.
In addition to the patient relaying his symptoms to the physician, diagnosis of systemic erythematosus lupus may include blood tests, chest x-rays and biopsy of the kidney. In addition, urinalysis may be recommended to detect protein, blood or casts in the urine. These urinary symptoms may indicate the presence of lupus. Sometimes, lupus may cause false values of certain blood tests. Thyroid function tests and rheumatoid factors may be inaccurate when SLE is present.
Currently, there is not a cure for systemic erythematosus lupus. Most treatments are directed to controlling the symptoms. Mild cases of lupus may respond to anti-inflammatory medication. These medications may greatly reduce the incidence of arthritic pain and pleurisy. Topical steroid creams may help reduce the incidence of skin inflammation and rashes. Anti-malaria medications are occasionally used to treat arthritic symptoms and alleviate skin manifestations.
Occasionally, in severe cases of systemic erythematosus lupus, cytotoxic medications normally used to treat cancer patients are administered because they are effective in blocking or inhibiting cellular growth. These medications are usually reserved for patients who are not favorably responding to corticosteroid therapy.
Complications of lupus may include nephritis or kidney inflammation. Nephritis may necessitate dialysis or even a kidney transplant. Because lupus-related nephritis may cause kidney failure, patients who are diagnosed with nephritis are to be monitored closely for swelling, elevations in blood pressure and decreased urinary output. Most of the time, however, lupus is a chronic but manageable condition. Lupus commonly occurs in women, and if managed effectively, they may enjoy safe pregnancies and deliver healthy infants.