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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)?

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems, including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, lungs and brain.

Lupus occurs more frequently in women. When people talk about lupus, they are usually referring to systemic lupus erythematosus.

The outlook for people with lupus was once grim, but diagnosis and treatment of lupus has improved considerably. With treatment, most people with lupus can lead active lives.

Diagnosing lupus is difficult because signs and symptoms vary considerably from person to person. Signs and symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly, may be mild or severe, and may be temporary or permanent They may change over time and overlap with those of many other disorders.

Therefore, doctors may not initially consider lupus until the features become more obvious. Even then, lupus can be challenging to diagnose because nearly all people with lupus experience fluctuations (called flares) in disease activity. At times the disease may become severe and at other times subside completely.


Depending on which body systems are affected by the disease, patients may experience: 

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
  • Butterfly-shaped rash (malar rash) on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud's phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Easy bruising
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory loss
  • Fits (seizures)
  • Miscarriage
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