Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of different tissues of the body. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a subset of lupus in which the immune system makes antibodies to cells in the body, leading to widespread inflammation and tissue damage. SLE occurs more often in women of child bearing age. According to the CDC, SLE affects between 161,000 - 322,000 people in the United States and about 500,000 people worldwide.

SLE has many manifestations, including arthritis, rash, photosensitivity, oral ulcers, pleuritis, pericarditis, kidney problems, seizures and psychosis and blood cell abnormalities. The musculoskeletal system is the most commonly involved system in SLE. The pathology of SLE involves chronic activation of the innate immune system by immune complexes, with activation of complement, increased production of type 1 interferons and other mediators of inflammation and resultant tissue inflammation and cumulative organ damage. Patients with SLE have an increased frequency of related autoimmune problems, such as Sjogren's syndrome and antiphospholipid syndrome that require additional treatments.

SLE may occur with other autoimmune conditions, such as thyroiditis, hemolytic anemia, and idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Accelerated atherosclerosis, infections, and active disease are responsible for premature mortality among SLE patients. Drugs specifically approved by the FDA for treatment of SLE are aspirin, corticosteroids, hydroxychloroquine and belimumab. Physicians commonly treat disease manifestations with immunosuppressive therapies that have significant toxicities.