Lupus erythematosus (also known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies are created against the patient's own DNA. It can cause various symptoms, but the main ones relate to the skin, kidney (lupus nephritis), joints, blood and immune system. more...
It is named for the Latin lupus, meaning "wolf", perhaps due to a crude similarity between the facial rash associated with the illness, and a wolf's face, although various explanations exist.
Signs and symptoms
Common initial and chronic complaints are fever, malaise, joint pains, myalgias and fatigue. Because they are so often seen with other diseases, these signs and symptoms are not part of the diagnostic criteria for SLE. When occurring in conjunction with other signs and symptoms, however, they are considered suggestive.
As many as 30% of patients present with some dermatological symptoms (and 65% suffer such symptoms at some point), with 30% to 50% suffering from the classic malar (or butterfly) rash associated with the disease. Patients may present with discoid lupus (thick, red scaly patches on the skin). Alopecia, mouth and vaginal ulcers, and lesions on the skin are also possible manifestations.
Patients most often seek medical attention for joint pain, with small joints of the hand and wrist usually affected, although any joint is at risk. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, SLE arthropathy is not usually destructive of bone, however, deformities caused by the disease may become irreversible in as many as 20% of patients.
Anemia and iron deficiency may develop in as many as half of patients. Low platelet and white blood cell counts may be due to the disease or a side-effect of pharmacological treatment.
Patients may present with inflammation of various parts of the heart: pericarditis, myocarditis and endocarditis. The endocarditis of SLE is characteristically non-infective (Libman-Sacks endocarditis), and involves either the mitral valve or the tricuspid valve. Atherosclerosis also tends to occur more often and advance more rapidly in SLE patients than in the general population. (Asanuma et al 2003, Bevra 2003, Roman et al 2003).
Painless hematuria or proteinuria may often be the only presenting renal symptom. Acute or chronic renal impairment may develop with lupus nephritis, leading to acute or end stage renal failure. Because of early recognition and management of SLE, end stage renal failure occurs in less than 5% of patients.
About 10% of patients may present with seizures or psychosis. A third may test positive for abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Abnormalities in T cell signaling are associated with SLE, including deficiency in CD45 phosphatase, increased expression of CD40 ligand. Also associated with SLE is increased expression of FcεRIγ, which replaces the TCR ζ chain, which is deficient in some SLE patients. Other abnormalities include:
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