Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic auto-immune disorder affecting mainly joints, kidneys and skin. It is seen more often in young adult population and is more likely to occur in women than men.

Cause

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus occurs when the body identifies its own body tissue as non-self by mistake and starts making auto-antibodies against it. Inappropriate immune response leads to inflammation and thus causes damage to these body tissues.

Symptoms

SLE may cause general symptoms such as fever, fatigue, mouth sores, hair loss, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythm, chest pain with deep breaths, headaches, seizures, difficulty breathing, and hemoptysis. SLE also causes a characteristic butterfly shaped rash on the nose and cheeks called malar rash with exposure to the sun. A raised oval discoid rash is also seen in some cases.

Diagnosis

For diagnosis of SLE various tests are done including blood tests, urine analysis, chest X-ray and kidney biopsy. Blood tests are most important for the diagnosis and include complete blood cell count and antibody tests such as antinuclear antibody, anti-double strand DNA and anti-phospholipid.

Treatment

There is no cure for SLE and treatment is aimed at managing the symptoms. Treatment is provided based on the type and severity of the symptoms and includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), anti-malarial drugs, corticosteroid and immune-suppressants. A drug belonging to a new class of drugs called biologics has been recently approved for treatment of mild to moderate SLE.

SLE symptoms may go away completely or flare up suddenly. Thus frequent and regular heath checkups are required to manage the disease.

Breastfeeding Rates Lower in Lupus

It is a common practice for rheumatologists to discuss medication-related teratogenicity and disease implications in case of pregnancy. Yet, discussion of breastfeeding are often omitted.

Besides being after the fact and little known about the safety of breastfeeding, there are few studies of breastfeeding in lupus and most of these are small in size and have other limitations. This is in stark contrast with the abundance of published studies on lupus and pregnancy.

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