©2018 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. eMedicineHealth does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See Additional Information.

Vascular, Lymphatic and Systemic Conditions

Picture of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 1

Picture of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune condition that affects mostly women beginning in their 20s or 30s. Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks the body's own tissues. Lupus may affect almost every organ and system in the body including the skin, heart, lungs, blood vessels, nervous system, joints, and kidneys. A combination of genetic and environmental factors is believed to play a role in triggering lupus. The disease may be progressive or undergo periods of remission. Potential triggers include viruses, sunlight, and allergies to medications. People of Asian and African American descent are more likely to get lupus than individuals in other ethnic groups. They may also be more likely to suffer from more severe cases of lupus.

Lupus is diagnosed when four of the following 11 criteria are present in a patient:

  • Malar “butterfly” rash across the nose and cheeks
  • Rash consisting of raised red patches (discoid rash)
  • Rash resulting from sensitivity to the sun (photosensitivity)
  • Ulcers in the nose or mouth
  • Two or more joints affected by arthritis with swelling, tenderness, or effusion
  • Inflammation of the heart (pericarditis) or lungs (pleuritis)
  • Neurological symptoms like seizures or psychosis
  • Kidney problems including excess protein in the urine or reduced kidney function
  • Positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) test
  • Presence of antibodies such as antiphospholipid antibodies, anti-double-strand DNA, or anti-Smith antibodies

Presence of abnormalities in blood counts (low white blood cells, low platelets, or anemia)

Image Source: Color Atlas of Pediatric Dermatology Samuel Weinberg, Neil S. Prose, Leonard Kristal Copyright 2008, 1998, 1990, 1975, by the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Text Reference: American College of Rheumatology: "Lupus"