Although nervous system involvement in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is unclear and controversial, people with lupus do often experience signs associated with the body's nervous system, such as:
- difficulty with concentration
- occasional seizures or strokes
Therefore, this brochure will:
- briefly discuss the nervous system and how it may be affected by lupus
- categorize the many signs and symptoms associated with nervous system involvement
- review the diagnostic work-up
- discuss disease management.
The Body's Nervous System
The nervous system is divided into three parts:
- The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord.
- The peripheral nervous system is comprised of nerve fibers that supply the skin and muscles with the power needed for sensation and movement.
- The autonomic nervous system helps to regulate spinal nerves and peripheral nerves, and innervates, or supplies nerves to, the internal organs. Its role in SLE is poorly defined.
How Does Lupus Affect The Nervous System?
The nervous system requires an uninterrupted flow of blood to supply its tissues with oxygen and nutrients necessary for normal functioning. A number of possibilities have been suggested to explain how lupus may cause the many symptoms of nervous system involvement:
- Nerve tissue may be damaged when antibodies attack nerve cells or blood vessels.
- Nutrients and oxygen are delivered through blood vessels that feed the brain, spinal cord and nerves. If blood flow is slowed or interrupted, the cells of the nervous system are injured, unable to function normally, and symptoms develop.
- The symptoms that occur vary depending on the location and extent of the tissue injury.
Signs And Symptoms of Central Nervous System Lupus
Central Nervous System (CNS) Vasculitis
CNS vasculitis is inflammation of the blood vessels of the brain. It is the most serious form of systemic lupus. CNS vasculitis is characterized by:
It can rapidly progress to stupor and coma if not aggressively managed. Seizures occur when injured or scarred brain tissue becomes the focus of abnormal electrical discharges. CNS vasculitis usually requires hospitalization and high doses of corticosteroids.
It can rapidly progress to stupor and coma if not aggressively managed. Seizures occur when injured or scarred brain tissue becomes the focus of abnormal electrical discharges.
CNS vasculitis usually requires hospitalization and high doses of corticosteroids.