Human body is protected from wide range of diseases by our immune system. It produces fighter cells that helps body in getting rid of the harmful substances such as germs. However, sometimes the immune system of the body attacks and damages its own healthy tissues; this condition is called autoimmune disease. There are approximately more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases are known.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is one of the long-term autoimmune disease that affects healthy organs of the body including skin, joints, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels. In patients with SLE, there are times when the disease is active (symptoms appear- flares), followed by times when the disease is quiet (symptoms disappear- remission). The flares can vary from mild to life-threatening events.
A typical symptom of SLE is a butterfly rash on the cheeks. Other symptoms that might also be seen in SLE patients are as mentioned below-
Some of these SLE symptoms are quite general that leads to delay in SLE diagnosis.
Although the cause of SLE is unknown, genetics and hormones are thought to play a role. It is more common in women than in men. SLE usually affects people between 15 and 45 years of age. However, it can occur in childhood & older ages as well.
Most of the SLE patients do not have family history of the disease. However, some people with an immediate family member with SLE are at slightly higher risk for the disease.
Your Doctor might check for the conditions such as fever, fatigue, skin rash, hair & weight loss, swelling of joints, fluid around the lungs or heart and do some specific blood tests for e.g. complete blood count etc. that will help in diagnosis of SLE.
Though there is no cure for SLE, an early diagnosis and stress-relief strategies, healthy diet, rest, psychosocial health consideration and medications as prescribed by the Doctor can help in managing the pain and symptoms better, and lower the risk of organ damage.
Depending on the organs affected, SLE patients might suffer from the following-
- Clogging of blood vessel that in turn can cause heart attack or failure
- Swelling and pain in kidneys that in turn, if left untreated, can lead to kidney failure
- Inflammation of lungs
- Psychological problems
Majority of the pregnancies in SLE women have no complications. However, it remains a high-risk situation due to hormonal changes. The risk of pregnancy complications due to SLE is low during remission than in women who has disease flare and can be further reduced by counseling and planning before pregnancy.
Effective and safe contraception in SLE patients permits planning for pregnancy during disease remission. However, SLE patients taking oral contraceptives are at increased risk of getting disease flare.
Sunlight can cause a serious SLE flare. Certain medications such as antibiotics may lead to SLE flare by making a person more sensitive to the sun. An infection, such as common cold, a serious injury or emotional stress may cause a flare in SLE.
- A good doctor-patient relationship and the support of family and friends can help a patient cope with SLE.
- The patient should visit to the Doctor and take the medicines regularly without missing the dose to prevent serious problems. The Doctor must be informed in case of any adverse effect, worsening or no change in symptoms.
- Moderate exercise with times of rest as advised by the Doctor helps keep the joints flexible.
- Sunlight can cause a serious SLE flare. Thus, protective clothing and use of a sunscreen might help in avoiding these flares.