What is lupus?
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body attacks its healthy tissue. It affects joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels, leading to inflammation and tissue damage of the affected organs. More than 90% of cases occur in females.
How does a person get lupus?
The exact cause of SLE is unknown; however, some environmental, genetic and hormonal factors may contribute to getting lupus.
Other risk factors
- Family history of SLE
- Female gender
- Chronic infections
- Use of estrogen in women undergoing menopause
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Pregnancy breastfeeding has shown to decrease the risk of SLE.
- Women of childbearing ages (15-44 years)
- High-risk ethnic backgrounds such as African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Caucasians
Early-life risk factors
- Low birth weight (<2,500 g)
- Preterm birth (birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy)
- Exposure to pesticides during childhood
How is lupus diagnosed?
Physicians diagnose SLE with the help of the following laboratory tests:
Radiographic tests such as computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging and joint radiograph also detect abnormalities.
Ultimately, a skin biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis.
How is lupus treated?
There is no cure for SLE. Management of SLE depends on disease severity and disease manifestations.
Hydroxychloroquine is effective in the long-term treatment of SLE. Immunosuppressive medicines help to inhibit the activity of the immune system, which can be useful in treating SLE.
Can a person die from lupus?
SLE along with other medical conditions can be a contributing cause of death. Mainly, secondary conditions like kidney diseases, heart diseases or infection can be the contributing factor.
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Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2020
U.S. Centers for Disease Control