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systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)


  • a chronic autoimmune connective tissue disease that can affect any part of the body, but most often the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and nervous system, and is thus one of the great imitators of diseases.
  • occurs nine times more often in women than in men, especially between the ages of 15 and 50, and is more common in those of non-European descent.
  • drug-induced lupus erythematosus is a (generally) reversible condition that usually occurs in people being treated for a long-term illness. Drug-induced lupus mimics SLE. However, symptoms of drug-induced lupus generally disappear once the medication that triggered the episode is stopped.
  • discoid lupus is limited to skin symptoms and is diagnosed by biopsy of skin rash on the face, neck, or scalp.


  • tends to run in families but no one gene appears causative
    • rare cases are associated with one gene (complement components C1q and C4)
    • most are associated with a large number of genes but current identified loci account for only 15% of hereditability 1)
    • epigenetic changes ? associated with smoking, UV exposure, medications, viral load, EBV
    • XX chromosome seems to cause more severe SLE than accounted for by female sex hormones
  • triggers include:
    • certain medications
    • extreme stress
    • exposure to sunlight
    • hormones - oestrogen in particular
    • infections
    • possibly lipstick usage??

clinical features

general features

  • common initial and chronic complaints include fever, malaise, joint pains, myalgias, fatigue, and temporary loss of cognitive abilities.
  • as they are so often seen with other diseases, these signs and symptoms are not part of the diagnostic criteria for SLE.


  • 30% to 50% suffering from the classic malar rash (or butterfly rash)
  • some have discoid lupus, alopecia, mouth, nasal, and vaginal ulcers.


  • generally, a non-destructive arthritis - most commonly of small joints of hand and wrist
  • increased risk of osteoarticular tuberculosis (TB)


  • ~50% devlop anaemia and iron deficiency
  • may have an association with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (lupus anticoagulant-positive) which is associated with thrombosis, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), increased risk of miscarriages, etc.
  • may have anticardiolipin antibody which may cause a false positive syphilis serology



  • pleuritis, pleural effusion, lupus pneumonitis, chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary emboli, pulmonary hemorrhage, and shrinking lung syndrome


  • painless hematuria or proteinuria may often be the only presenting renal symptom of lupus nephritis which may lead to acute or end-stage renal failure (now uncommon if nephritis treated early).
  • histological hallmark of SLE is membranous glomerulonephritis with “wire loop” abnormalities.


  • neuropsychiatric syndromes
  • headache, cognitive dysfunction, mood disorder, cerebrovascular disease,[19] seizures, polyneuropathy,[19] anxiety disorder, and psychosis.
  • other rare manifestations


  • anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) testing and anti-extractable nuclear antigen (anti-ENA) form the mainstay of serologic testing for SLE.
  • Subtypes of antinuclear antibodies include anti-Smith and anti-double stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibodies (which are linked to SLE) and anti-histone antibodies (which are linked to drug-induced lupus).
  • Anti-dsDNA antibodies are highly specific for SLE; they are present in 70% of cases, whereas they appear in only 0.5% of people without SLE.

diagnostic criteria

NEJM 2011 365;22
sle.txt · Last modified: 2012/07/12 18:34 (external edit)