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What is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)?
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus — 70 % of people with lupus have it. It's what most people mean when they refer to "lupus".
How is SLE different from other forms of lupus?
SLE can cause inflammation of multiple organs or organ systems in the body, either acutely or chronically. In contrast, cutaneous lupus (CLE), is limited to the skin, although in some patients, it may eventually progress to SLE. Drug-induced lupus can be caused by certain prescription medications. It has many of the same symptoms as SLE but rarely affects major organs and disappears about six months after the medication is stopped. Neonatal lupus occurs only in newborns and is not true lupus. Most of the symptoms of neonatal lupus will disappear after six months.
What causes SLE?
Experts don’t know what causes systemic lupus erythematosus, but lupus and other autoimmune diseases do run in families. Women ages 15 to 44 and certain ethnic groups—including African American, Asian American, Hispanics/Latino, and Native American—are at higher risk for developing SLE than the rest of the population. Read more lupus facts and statistics and learn what the possible causes of the disease are.
What are the symptoms of SLE?
Symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) vary from person to person and they may come and go and change over time. Lupus shares symptoms with other diseases, which can make it difficult to diagnose. The most common symptoms include:
- Skin rashes
- Pain or swelling in the joints (arthritis)
- Swelling in the feet, and around the eyes (typically due to kidney involvement)
- Extreme fatigue
- Low fevers
Read more about lupus symptoms.
Below is a brief description of some of the more serious complications of systemic lupus erythematosus involving major organ systems.
- Inflammation of the kidneys—called lupus nephritis—can affect the body’s ability to filter waste from the blood. It can be so damaging that dialysis or a kidney transplant may be needed.
- Inflammation of the nervous system and brain can cause memory problems, confusion, headaches, and strokes.
- Inflammation in the brain’s blood vessels can cause high fevers, seizures, and behavioral changes.
- Hardening of the arteries or coronary artery disease—the buildup of deposits on coronary artery walls—can lead to a heart attack.
- Inflammation of the skin can cause rashes, sores, and ulcers throughout the body. About half of all people with systemic lupus erythematosus will develop a malar rash — a butterfly-shaped rash mostly seen across the cheeks and nose that can get worse in the sunlight.
The most common form of lupus—it’s what most people mean when they refer to “lupus.”
A form of lupus that is limited to the skin.
A lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs.
A rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus.