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 typically occurs more often in women than men and is most common between the ages 15 to 35. According to the CDC, SLE affects between 161,000-322,000 people in the US and about 500,000 worldwide.

SLE can manifest in a wide array of clinical conditions, 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 involves chronic activation of the innate immune system, resulting in tissue inflammation and damage. Patients with SLE also 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 among SLE patients is responsible for premature mortality.

Approved treatments of SLE are currently limited to aspirin, corticosteroids, hydroxychloroquine and belimumab. Physicians also commonly treat disease manifestations with immunosuppressive or corticosteroid therapies that have significant toxicities.