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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the connective tissue that causes widespread inflammation as well as tissue damage. Signs and symptoms of systemic lupus include fatigue, joint pain, fever, and a butterfly rash across the face. SLE is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation that targets organs, tissues, and joints.

SLE most commonly affects women especially women who are in their childbearing years.



In addition to providing medications, a patient needs to avoid UV and sun exposure to prevent skin damage. Patients also need frequent rest periods because of the side effect of fatigue associated with systemic lupus.

SLE Advance Explanation

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a typical example of an “autoimmune disease”. It is a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks the tissues of different organ systems throughout the body and can result in severe problems. It occurs worldwide and is more common in some populations than others. Overall, this disease occurs at a frequency of about one in 1000. It is more common in women, particularly in the fertile years. In these years this disease has a ratio of about 9 women to 1 man, while in other years the ratio is much closer. There are numerous manifestations of systemic lupus, from mild to life-threatening.

The most common symptoms include rash (with a “butterfly rash” occurring on the face being common); sun sensitivity; arthritis; mouth and other mucous membranes sores; pericarditis (inflammation around the lining of the heart); pleurisy (inflammation around the lining of the lungs); a tendency to form blood clots; a tendency for blood vessels to get inflamed; seizures; a renal disease which can lead to kidney failure and dialysis; blood abnormalities, etc. Due to many different manifestations, this can be a very difficult disease to diagnose. Timely blood tests are useful. Rheumatologists are often consulted to help confirm the diagnosis. Because of the difficulty in treating some of these problems Rheumatologists are also needed to take part in controlling this disease. The cause of SLE is not known. There is a genetic predisposition to it, and it may be triggered by environmental exposures. Because of these genetic influences, it is more common in some parts of the world than in others.

Many patients are also very sensitive to the sun, and sunlight can trigger diverse elements of the disease, such as renal disease. SLE has no cure, but some medications help manage its varied manifestations. Medications used for the treatment of SLE include relatively mild medications such as Plaquenil, medications for pain, varying doses of glucocorticoids (such as prednisone) which often result in many adverse effects, and immunosuppressives (such as chemotherapeutic agents) which need careful monitoring. It is hard to believe, but there has been no new approved drug for the treatment of systemic lupus for several decades!

This is in part because of the many problems of the disease. It is difficult to find patients with similar manifestations who have a similar activity to their disease. This is needed to prove that a medication is effective. This is why it is so important to continue to look for new treatments for SLE. In March of 2011 FDA approved the first biologic treatment for SLE called Benlysta. BENLYSTA is the first lupus treatment approved by the FDA in over 50 years. Regional Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates has the experience of using Benlysta in multiple patients with SLE. Benlysta infusions are offered at our state-of-the-art infusion facility.

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