Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Ok, here are some basic information regarding Lupus as promised in previous post.
Enjoy and hope you get to see a picture of this in your head. 🙂

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What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

“Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic (persistent) disease that causes inflammation in various parts of the body. It is commonly just called SLE or ‘lupus’. The severity of SLE ranges from mild to severe. There are two main forms of lupus. Discoid lupus only affects only the skin and is not discussed in this leaflet. The other form is systemic lupus erythematosus which involves the skin and joints and may involve internal organs such as the heart or kidney as well.”

“Lupus is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation of body tissues caused by autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex system within the body that is designed to fight infectious agents, for example, bacteria, and other foreign invaders. One of the mechanisms that the immune system uses to fight infections is the production of antibodies. Patients with lupus produce abnormal antibodies in their blood that target tissues within their own body rather than foreign infectious agents. Because the antibodies and accompanying cells of inflammation can involve tissues anywhere in the body, lupus has the potential to affect a variety of areas of the body. Sometimes lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and/or 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).

Both discoid and systemic lupus are more common in women than men (about eight times more common). The disease can affect all ages but most commonly begins from age 20 to 45 years. It is more frequent in African-Americans and people of Chinese and Japanese descent.”

What causes SLE?

“SLE is an auto-immune disease. This means that the immune system (which normally protects the body from infections) mistakenly attacks itself. This can cause symptoms and may damage the affected parts of the body. Other autoimmune diseases include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders.

It is not known why SLE occurs. Some factor may trigger the immune system to attack itself. Possible triggers of SLE include infections, drugs (for examples minocycline or hydralazine) or sunlight. Hormone changes may play a role in SLE which could explain why it is much more common in women.”

“The precise reason for the abnormal autoimmunity that causes lupus is not known. Inherited genes, viruses, ultraviolet light, and drugs may all play some role. Genetic factors increase the tendency of developing autoimmune diseases, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and immune thyroid disorders are more common among relatives of patients with lupus than the general population. Some scientists believe that the immune system in lupus is more easily stimulated by external factors like viruses or ultraviolet light. Sometimes, symptoms of lupus can be precipitated or aggravated by only a brief period of sun exposure.

It also is known that some women with SLE can experience worsening of their symptoms prior to their menstrual periods. This phenomenon, together with the female predominance of SLE, suggest that female hormones play an important role in the expression of SLE. This hormonal relationship is an active area of ongoing study by scientists.

More recently, research has demonstrated evidence that a key enzyme’s failure to dispose of dying cells may contribute the development of SLE. The enzyme, DNase1, normally eliminates what is called “garbage DNA” and other cellular debris by chopping them into tiny fragments for easier disposal. The researchers turned off the DNase1 gene in mice. The mice appeared healthy at birth but after six to eight months, the majority of mice without DNase1 showed signs of SLE. Thus, a genetic mutation in a gene that could disrupt the body’s cellular waste disposal may be involved in the initiation of SLE.”


What are the symptoms of SLE?


“The symptoms and severity of SLE vary tremendously between people. Many people have fatigue (tiredness), weight loss and a mild fever. In addition, one or more of the following may develop:

Joint and muscle pains

Most people with SLE develop some joint and muscle pains. Sometimes only a few joints are affected whereas other people have many joints affected. The small joints of the hands and feet tend to be the ones affected most. The pains may ‘flit’ from joint to joint. Joint stiffness is common and is usually worse first thing in the morning. Mild joint swelling may occur but severe arthritis with joint damage is unusual.

Skin, mouth and hair

A red rash which develops over the cheeks and nose is common (the ‘butterfly rash’). Other areas of skin exposed to sunlight (hands, wrists, etc) may also develop a rash. About 6 in 10 people with SLE find that their skin is very sensitive to sunlight. Various other rashes may develop. The blood vessels just under the skin may also be affected and cause poor circulation to the fingers and toes (Raynaud’s phenomenon). Mouth ulcers are more common in people with SLE. Some hair may fall out (alopecia). Any hair loss tends to be minor and cause hair ‘thinning’ rather than bald patches. However, quite serious hair loss sometimes develops, although the hair often grows back when SLE is less active.

Blood and lymph

A mild anaemia is common. Other blood problems such as reduced numbers of white blood cells or platelets (the cells that help the blood to clot) are less common. A tendency to form blood clots is an uncommon complication. Some lymph glands may swell.

Heart and lungs

The tissues that cover the heart and lung (the pleura and pericardium) may become inflamed. This can cause pleurisy (pains in the side of the chest) or pericarditis (central chest pains). The actual heart or lung tissue is less commonly affected.

Kidneys

Around 1 in 3 people with SLE may develop inflammation of the kidneys which can lead to the kidneys leaking protein and blood into the urine. This does not usually cause problems unless the disease is very severe. Kidney failure is an uncommon complication.

Brain and nervous system

Mental health problems in SLE are fairly common and include depression and anxiety. Although mild depression can be part of the disease itself, it can also be due to your reaction to having a serious illness. It is not uncommon for people to have difficulties in coping with having SLE. It is important to share any feelings you have have with your doctor as treatment can be really beneficial. Occasionally, inflammation of the brain can lead to epilepsy, headaches, migraines and other conditions.”

“Patients with SLE can develop different combinations of symptoms and organ involvement. Common complaints and symptoms include fatigue, low-grade fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches, arthritis, ulcers of the mouth and nose, facial rash (“butterfly rash“), unusual sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity), inflammation of the lining that surrounds the lung (pleuritis) and the heart (pericarditis), and poor circulation to the fingers and toes with cold exposure (Raynaud’s phenomenon).”

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Just some basic information on Lupus.
Sources: In blue, in green
(You can also find this in the links section) 🙂

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