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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an inflammatory autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is a disease wherein the body attacks its own normal tissues and organs. This occurs due to an immune system malfunction. The immune system believes that the normal tissues and organs are foreign, and is trying to remove the foreign object from the body. The result is that the body attacks these areas and many complications arise.
Patient’s who have Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or Lupus) may have a variety of different organ systems involved in the disease. Organ systems that may be affected by this disease include joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain and blood vessels. There are classic signs and symptoms associated with Lupus and these aid in the diagnosis.
SLE (Lupus) is an autoimmune disease, and the specific cause is not known. The common theory is that Lupus occurs from both genetic and environmental components. It is thought that exposure to certain environmental factors can actually cause Lupus to develop. Those environmental factors include: sunlight, infection and medication. Exposure to sunlight may activate skin involvement of SLE. Because Lupus is an autoimmune disease, patients with infections may be at higher risk of triggering SLE. Certain medications can cause drug-induced Lupus. These medications have drug-induced Lupus as a side effect, and in most cases the SLE like signs/symptoms dissipate with removal of the medication.
There are many different kinds of Lupus. These include: Discoid Lupus Erythematosus; Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus; Drug-Induced Lupus and Neonatal Lupus. Discoid Lupus Erythematosus is a form of SLE that involves the skin and results in a persistent rash that will not subside. Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus is a type of SLE that results in skin sores on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. Drug-Induced Lupus results as a side effect of a variety of different medications. Neonatal Lupus is rare, but it affects neonates.
SLE is more common in women, especially childbearing women. Lupus affects both men and women of all ages, but it is most commonly associated with women between the ages of 15 and 40. It is more common in African Americans, Hispanics and Asian populations.