Lupus and other Collagen Vascular Disorders
Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Up to 10% of persons with discoid lupus (lupus limited to the skin) eventually develop the systemic form of lupus known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
SLE’s symptoms vary but have been known to include fatigue, joint pain, rash and/or fever. Sufferers may experience flare-ups followed by periods of improvement. Pain may be in the muscles or chest, and there may be dryness or ulcers in the mouth. SLE can also cause red, scaly rashes and hair loss.
Who Gets It?
SLE is eight times more common in women than in men.
What Causes It?
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic inflammatory condition caused by an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Patients with lupus have unusual antibodies in their blood that are targeted against their own body tissues. The causes of SLE are unknown. However, heredity, viruses, ultraviolet light, and drugs may all play a role.
While there is no cure for lupus, the treatment of SLE is directed toward improving quality of life by decreasing inflammation and/or the level of autoimmune activity. People with SLE can help prevent “flares” of disease by avoiding sun exposure and by not abruptly discontinuing medications.