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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Published on Aug 05, 2019 and last reviewed on Dec 28, 2022   -  4 min read


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune condition, which results in widespread inflammation in the body. To know more about this condition, read the article.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

What Is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is an autoimmune inflammatory disease and the most common type of lupus. It causes widespread inflammation of the skin, blood vessels, joints, and other organs. Genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors seem to cause this disease.

A butterfly-shaped rash on the bridge of the nose and cheeks is characteristic of SLE.

What Are the Symptoms of SLE?

SLE has periods of flares and remission. During a flare, the disease actively produces symptoms. Once the symptoms go away, the remission period starts. It can cause moderate to severe symptoms during a flare-up. It can affect the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, heart, brain, and almost all organs of the body. As a result, symptoms vary in different patients. The symptoms include:

As it causes symptoms of other diseases, it is often misdiagnosed.

What Causes SLE?

The exact cause is still not known, but it is hypothesized to be caused due to genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. It can be triggered by the following factors:

  • Exposure to sunlight.

  • Infection.

  • Sex hormones.

  • Stress.

  • Certain medications like antibiotics, hypertensive medicines, and anti-seizure medicines.

What Are the Risk Factors for SLE?

Some factors that can increase the risk of SLE are:

  • Being a female.

  • People between 15 and 45 years of age.

  • Race (African-Americans, Hispanics).

What Are the Complications of SLE?

SLE can affect the following organs:

  • Kidney (Lupus nephritis) - Inflammation of the kidneys is seen in around 35 to 50 % patients. If left untreated, it can progress to end-stage renal disease. It causes painful joints, muscle pain, fever, and a butterfly-shaped rash on the nose.

  • Heart (pericarditis) - It causes inflammation of heart muscles and membranes.

  • Brain - if the brain is affected, it results in memory loss, dizziness, stroke, and seizures.

  • Blood - Can cause anemia and clotting problems.

  • Blood vessels - Causes inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) and atherosclerosis.

  • The body becomes more vulnerable to infections and increases the risk of cancers.

How Is SLE Diagnosed?

It is very difficult to diagnose SLE, as it causes different symptoms in different people and there is no one test to diagnose it. Your doctor might take a complete medical history and perform a physical examination. Then he or she might suggest you get the following tests done:

  • Complete blood count - It is used to count the number of different blood cells present in the blood. Lupus decreases the white blood cells and platelet count and also anemia.

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) - ESR is the time taken by the red blood cells to the bottom of the test tube. In systemic diseases like lupus, the sedimentation rate is faster.

  • Urinalysis - If lupus has affected the kidneys, protein and red blood cells in the urine.

  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test - The presence of this antibody indicates an autoimmune disorder.

  • Chest X-ray - It might show fluid and inflammation of lungs.

  • Echocardiogram - It checks for inflammation of heart valves and heart muscles.

  • Skin biopsy.

How Is SLE Treated?

The treatment depends on the signs and symptoms. The medicines used are:


  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - Naproxen sodium and Ibuprofen.

  • Immunosuppresants - Methotrexate

  • Antimalarial drugs - Hydroxychloroquine

  • Corticosteroids - Prednisone.

  • Blood thinners - Warfarin.

  • Immunosuppressants - Azathioprine, Mycophenolate mofetil, and Methotrexate.

  • Biologics - Belimumab.

  • Rituximab.

Home Remedies:

To prevent flare-ups, try these following tips:

  • Go for regular check-ups.

  • Wear protective clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses while going out.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Your diet should comprise of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain.

  • Vitamin D and calcium supplements.

  • Acupuncture.

  • Consume food containing Omega-3 fatty acid.

What Are the Dietary Changes Needed?

You should make the following changes in your diet:

  • Limit sodium intake.

  • Reduce intake of saturated and trans fats.

  • Avoid packaged food.

  • Eat smaller portions of meat and other nonvegetarian food.

  • Consume more plant-based proteins.

  • Consume diet rich in potassium like bananas and potatoes.

With proper treatment and alteration in the lifestyle, the prognosis is good. Go for regular check-ups tom avoid flare-ups. Women with SLE can deliver healthy babies if proper treatment is done. To know more about this illness, consult a doctor now.

Frequently Asked Questions


What type of hypersensitivity reaction is the cause of systemic lupus erythematosus?

SLE is an autoimmune disorder, which makes the body’s immune system produce antibodies to attack the body, especially the proteins in the cell nucleus. The resulting inflammatory response is said to be a type III hypersensitivity response with a potential type II response.


What is usually the first signs of lupus?

Lupus causes symptoms similar to other conditions, so it is often misdiagnosed. Some of the early signs of lupus are skin rashes on sun exposure, fatigue, fever, hair loss, dry mouth and eyes, and swollen joints.


What are the 11 signs of lupus?

Your doctor will suspect lupus if you exhibit at least 4 signs of the following 11 signs:
- Butterfly-shaped skin rash on the bridge of the nose and cheeks.
- Photosensitivity.
- Mouth ulcers.
- Raised red patches on the skin.
- Swelling and tenderness in two or more joints.
- Seizures.
- Pleurisy or pericarditis.
- Low blood cell count.
- Presence of certain antibodies in your blood.
- Proteinuria.
- Positive ANA (antinuclear antibodies) test.


What are the 4 types of lupus?

The four types of lupus are:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Cutaneous lupus erythematosus.
- Drug-induced lupus erythematosus.
- Neonatal lupus.


What foods trigger lupus?

Foods to avoid to prevent lupus flare-ups are garlic, alfalfa sprouts, sugar, processed foods, red meat, trans and saturated fats, potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes.


Is lupus a disability?

If lupus has damaged your organs to the extent that you are unable to work, then it is considered to be a disability.


Can lupus be cured completely?

No, there is no cure for lupus. It is a chronic autoimmune disease, which flares up for a time and then becomes inactive, and such episodes might occur throughout your life. But in some people, it remains active for a long time.


What happens if lupus goes untreated?

Treatment of lupus depends on the severity of the organ affected. If the affected organ is not treated with medications, it can be life-threatening.


How do you stop a lupus flare naturally?

Lupus flare can be prevented by omega-3 fatty acid supplements, herbal medicines containing ginger and turmeric, vitamin and mineral supplements, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements, and hypnotherapy.

Last reviewed at:
28 Dec 2022  -  4 min read




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