Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Rheumatology Now
What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. The inflammation can affect numerous body systems, from your joints to your lungs. It can be a challenging disease to diagnose as its signs and symptoms mimic those of other ailments.
It’s believed that lupus is caused by your genetics and your environment. Some people are born with a tendency towards developing lupus. It may be triggered by certain drugs, sunlight or infections.
Who Gets Lupus?
Women get lupus about nine times more often than men, and it mostly affects women of childbearing age. It is estimated that about 1 in 1,000 people have lupus.
Symptoms of Lupus
Because lupus is due to your body’s immune system attacking healthy tissues in the joints, skin and other organs. Lupus causes a wide range of symptoms that vary among patients, depending on the severity of the disease and the area of the body affected.
That said, many patients experience a consistent pattern of symptoms and flare-ups that’s personal to them.
If you have lupus, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Skin rashes that may be triggered by sunlight, especially a particular type of red skin rash on the face called a malar rash or butterfly rash
- Joint aches and swelling
- Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes the fingers and toes to turn white or blue in the cold
- Mouth ulcers
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
- Swelling of the legs or eyes
- Chest pain
For most patients, lupus symptoms are the worst in the first few two to five years after diagnosis. It’s important to work with your rheumatologist to minimize damage as much as possible.
Treatments for Lupus
Fortunately, there are numerous medications that can effectively treat lupus. The goal of lupus treatment are to prevent and treat flares and reduce organ and tissue damage.
Although lupus can cause a number of symptoms, it often shows a consistent pattern, and flares tend to follow predictable patterns. So, if you begin to understand your disease, it can help you treat it more effectively.
Causes of Lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system starts to attack itself, leading to inflammation.
The word “inflammation” comes from the Latin word “inflammare” which means to light on fire.
If your rheumatologist thinks it could be beneficial, he or she may recommend electromyography or nerve conduction studies to look for nerve involvement.
Video What is Lupus Disease
Video Symptoms of Lupus Disease
Video Diagnosing Lupus Erythematosus
Blood Tests to Diagnose Lupus
There are a number of blood tests that can help diagnose lupus:
Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test: This important test looks for antibodies that attack the body. If this test comes back negative, then it’s generally believed that they don’t have lupus. If it comes back positive, your rheumatologist may prescribe more tests to confirm lupus.
Anti-Double Stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) test: Your rheumatologist can measure antibodies that attack DNA with this very specific test for lupus.
Extractable Nuclear Antigen (ENA) panel: The antibodies in this panel may include anti-Ro (also called anti-SSA), anti-La (also called anti-SSB), anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti-Jo-1, anti-Scl70, and anti-centromere. This test looks for antibodies that attack certain proteins.
Complete Blood Count (CBC): Because lupus can cause inflammation, this blood test can detect abnormal results.
Creatinine: If you have abnormally high levels of creatinine, this can indicate a problem with how your kidneys are functioning.
Diagnosis of Lupus
To properly diagnose systemic lupus erythematosus, you should see a rheumatologist, a type of physician who specializes in arthritis and autoimmune disease.
To diagnose lupus, your physician will take your complete medical history, perform a complete physical examination and order blood tests.
In addition to blood tests, your physician may recommend urinalysis testing to detect protein or blood in the urine that may indicate your kidneys are involved.
In addition to other types of testing, your rheumatologist may prescribe a chest x-ray and/or CT scans can help confirm if the lungs are involved in lupus.