Symptoms and Signs of Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)

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Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2019

Doctor's Notes on Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus)

SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus or lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks various organs or cells in the body; it can be a mild to severe disease that may relapse periodically. Signs and symptoms are related to the affected organs. However, initial signs and symptoms are fever, muscle/joint pains and fatigue, the most bothersome symptom. Organ systems have different signs and symptoms. For example, muscles- inflammation, weakness and pain; skin and hair - mallar rash, hair loss; kidney problems; heart and blood vessels - pericarditis, atherosclerosis; nervous system - acute psychiatric problems, depression, seizures and/or strokes; lungs - pleurisy, pneumonia; stomach and intestines - abdominal pain, ulcers, ascities and eyes - dry eyes, retinal damage.

The exact cause(s) of SLE are not known but people with SLE likely share a common genetic link that, when triggered by environmental factors, results in SLE. Hormones may play a role as symptoms may wax and wane during a woman's period and SLE in pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage and preterm birth. In addition, drugs may induce SLE (for example, procainamide, phenytoin, etanercept and others) but SLE symptoms cease once the drugs are stopped.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus : Test Your SLE IQ Quiz

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Lupus is an infection.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.