What is lupus?

What is SLE (Lupus)?

SLE [systemic lupus erythematosus] is an autoimmune disease involving multiple body organs, usually
affecting women of childbearing age. Our immune system normally protects against infections, but in illnesses
such as lupus it attacks the body’s own tissues. The effects vary depending on which areas of the body are
attacked – joints, skin, kidneys, brain etc.

Who suffers from lupus?

Lupus is about nine times as common in women as in men. Lupus is more common in younger women. Lupus
also affects children but only rarely.

Why does lupus occur?

We don’t know exactly why this happens. Our immune system is the army protecting us from foreign foes. In
lupus, the protecting army gets abnormal and fails to recognize its own tissues and attacks them. This is
probably caused by a combination of environmental, hormonal and genetic factors. Lupus isn’t contagious and
is not directly inherited from your parents, though some of the genes inherited from parents may contribute to
the development of the disease.

What happens in Lupus?

Tiredness, joint pains and skin rashes are common symptoms but lupus can affect many parts of the body, and
when internal organs are involved the symptoms can be much more serious. You may have a rash over parts of
the body that are exposed to the sun. A butterfly-shaped rash over the cheeks and the bridge of the nose is
especially common. You can also have mouth ulcers, hair loss and joint pains.
You may also develop problems in other internal organs like kidneys (protein in urine, high blood pressure etc.),
the brain (abnormal behavior, depression, fits, stroke), heart, lungs, blood (anemia, low platelets, abnormal
bleeding, or clotting), and other systems.
However, these symptoms might also occur in other diseases and it is your doctor who can understand the
relevance or importance of them in you.

Table: Features of SLE [lupus]



 SKIN & HAIR ‘Butterfly rash’ on face

DLE rash

Mouth ulcers

Hair loss

JOINTS Arthritis
LUNGS Pleurisy (fluid collection around lungs)
HEART High blood pressure
Pericarditis (fluid collection around heart)