SLE is more common in women than men. It may occur at any age. However, it appears most often in people between the ages of 15 and 44. The disease affects African Americans and Asians more than people from other races.
Symptoms vary from person to person, and may come and go. Everyone with SLE has joint pain and swelling at some time. Some develop arthritis. SLE often affects the joints of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees.
Other common symptoms include:
1.Chest pain when taking a deep breath.
3.Fever with no other cause.
4.General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise).
8.Sensitivity to sunlight.
9.Skin rash: A "butterfly" rash develops in about half the people with SLE. The rash is mostly seen over the cheeks and bridge of the nose. It can be widespread. It gets worse in sunlight.
10.Swollen lymph nodes.
Other symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected:
1.Brain and nervous system: Headaches, numbness, tingling, seizures, vision problems, and personality changes
2.Digestive tract: Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
3.Heart: Valve problems, inflammation of heart muscle
4.Lung: Buildup of fluid in the pleural space, difficulty breathing
5.Skin: Patchy skin color and fingers that change color when cold (Raynaud phenomenon)
6.Kidney: Swelling in the legs
Some people have only skin symptoms. This is called discoid lupus.
There is no cure for SLE. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms. Severe symptoms that involve the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs often need treatment from specialists.
Mild forms of the disease may be treated with:
1.NSAIDs for joint symptoms and pleurisy. Talk to your provider before taking these medicines.
2.Low doses of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, for skin and arthritis symptoms.
3.Corticosteroid creams for skin rashes.
4.Hydroxychloroquine, a medicine also used to treat malaria.
5.Belimumab, a biologic medicine, may be helpful in some people.
Treatments for more severe SLE may include:
2.Immunosuppressive medicines (these medicines suppress the immune system). These medicines are used if you do not get better with corticosteroids, or if your symptoms get worse when you stop taking them.
3.Most commonly used medicines include mycophenolate, azathioprine and cyclophosphamide. Because of its toxicity, cyclophosphamide is limited to a short course of 3 to 6 months. Rituximab (Rituxan) is used in some cases as well.
4.Blood thinners, such as Coumadin, for clotting disorders.
If you have SLE, it is also important to:
1.Wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen when in the sun.
2.Get preventive heart care.
3.Stay up-to-date with immunizations.
4.Have tests to screen for thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).
5.Avoid tobacco and drink minimal amounts of alcohol.