Rheumatology

Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

DESCRIPTION:

SLE is an autoimmune disease where the immune system, which fights with dangerous infections and bacteria, begins attacking its own body organs and tissues as it confuses them for something foreign. SLE is the most common and severe type of Lupus, which can affect joint parts, skin, heart, lungs and other internal organs. The symptoms of this condition are hard to determine as it resembles with many other diseases and vary in different people.

Causes and symptoms of SLE

The exact cause of SLE is still unknown, but there are several risk factors that are associated with developing this disease, which are:

  • Genetic conditions, inherited from family members
  • Environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays, emotional stress and physical trauma
  • Certain use of medications
  • Age and sex (SLE occurs more in women than men)
  • Virus and infection

Symptoms of SLE may vary from time to time and usually include:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Headache
  • Hair loss
  • Pain and swelling around the joints
  • Butterfly shaped rashes in the cheeks and nose
  • Blood clots
  • Anemia
  • Raynaud’s syndrome where fingers and toes turns white and blue when exposed to cold or pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Heart problems
  • Photosensitivity

Diagnosing SLE

In order to find out if you are diagnosed with SLE, the doctor will examine your signs and symptoms and perform various tests, such as:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Chest X-ray

Treatment of SLE

There is no treatment to cure Systematic Lupus Erythematosis, however, there are ways to control the symptoms and help the patient lead a normal life. Treatment methods vary depending on the severity of the condition and which part of the body is affected by Lupus. Below are given most common treatment methods for SLE.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These drugs are effective in easing inflammation and pain from joints and other body organs. Some of the NSAIDs used are aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and sulindac. Doctors initially prescribe a stronger dose of these drugs and then gradually diminishes it to stop the lupus from advancing.
  • Corticoisteroids: Another widely used medication for stopping the symptoms of lupus provided through either mouth or injection, which reduce inflammation and restore the ability of the immune system.
  • Antimalarial drugs: As the name suggests, these drugs help the patient to get rid of fatigue and weakness, skin rashes and joint diseases. Hydroxychloroquine is a commonly used antimalarial medication that prevents lupus flares and fever.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs: Medications such as methotrexate, azathioprine, chlorambucil and cyclosporine suppress the ability of the immune system. It is only used with severe SLE complications where the immune system is providing great harm to the internal organs.

Complications

SLE treatment involves some mild to severe complications, which you must discuss with your health advisor. Below are given some possible side effects of the medications used to treat SLE:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Internal bleeding
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight gain
  • Osteomalacia (thinning of bones)
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood clots
  • Vision issues
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney or lung damage
  • Nausea and vomiting

Care

During the treatment, it is possible that the symptoms may come back or worsens. If this happens, immediately consult with your doctor.

Take all the medications as directed by the doctor and do not stop it even if you feel relieved from all the symptoms.

Apply sunscreens and wear sun protective clothes when you go outside.

Get enough sleep and rest as and when needed during the daytime. Do everything that will help you overcome your tiredness.

Maintaining your health is highly essential during the treatment of SLE as your immune system won’t be effective fighting of foreign viruses and bacteria. Therefore, eat a nutritious diet and perform regular exercise to provide flexibility in your joints and build stamina. Quit smoking as it can lead to cardiovascular diseases and increase risk of developing lupus symptoms.

Visit your doctor on a regular basis to keep track of your health and recovery.