Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Definition: It is a chronic multisystemic disease of autoimmune origin.

It mainly affects the skin and joints, although any organ may be involved.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), commonly called lupus, can affect virtually any organ in the body.

The body’s immune system, which usually works to protect against foreign invaders, becomes overactive, the formation of antibodies attacking normal tissues and organs, such as the lungs, heart, brain, and kidneys, and in turn, affects the blood.

Lupus is characterized by periods of illness, called exacerbations, and periods of well-being or quietness (remission).

Because their symptoms appear and disappear, they can be confused with those of other diseases; Lupus is difficult to diagnose. There is no single laboratory test that can prove that a person has this complex disease.

It mainly affects women between 20 to 45 years of age, but it can also affect all ages, including children of both sexes.


The diagnosis is made on a clinical basis and based on antibodies against nuclear antigens such as antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and related serologies, such as anti-double-stranded DNA.

Other types of Lupus

Although “Lupus” in broad terms refers to SLE, this is just one type of the disease. There are two other types of Lupus:

Discoid Erythematosus Lupus, which mainly affects the skin. The symptoms of this form of Lupus include a rash on the face, scalp, or elsewhere. The rash may last for days or years and may recur.

Drug-induced Lupus is caused by certain medications and usually disappears when the drug is stopped. The symptoms of this form of Lupus may be milder.


Hormonal factors: the prevalence and peak of female incidence in women of childbearing age is circumstantial evidence of hormonal factors in the pathogenesis of Lupus erythematosus. Hormones play an essential role in the pathogenesis of Lupus. For example, contraceptives containing estrogen are associated with an increased risk of developing this disease.

Genetic factors: genetic predisposition can occur due to the concordance rate in monozygotic twins, around 30% to 50%.

Environmental factors: environmental factors such as ultraviolet light and sunlight can exacerbate the disease, particularly in skin disease.

Silica dust, found in materials such as soil, cement, and cigarette smoke, can increase the risk of getting Lupus Erythematosus. Smoking is associated with a greater prevalence and greater severity.


  • Joint pain: Most people with lupus erythematosus show pain in their joints as one of the first symptoms of the disease, accompanied by inflammation or weakness in the muscles.
  • Chest pain: Lupus can cause inflammation that can affect the organs and lead to severe problems.
  • Symptoms such as chest pain may occur due to inflammation around the lungs, in the heart, or in the membrane that surrounds the heart.
  • Problems in the kidneys: this can cause inflammation in the kidneys and affect the ability to release toxins and other waste from the body. Symptoms include blood in the urine, frequent urination, especially at night, and unexplained swelling of the feet, legs, fingers, and arms. If not treated in time, it can cause permanent damage.
  • Butterfly rash: also called malar erythema, appears on the cheeks and nose in the form of a butterfly. It can worsen after exposure to the sun, so it is recommended to take care of the skin with sunscreen and a hat. Usually, the rash does not itch.
  • Sensitivity to light: Many people with Lupus are photosensitive, which means they develop rashes in response to sunlight. If you already have a rash, the sun can worsen the situation.
  • Blue fingers: some people develop the Raynaud phenomenon, in which the blood can not reach the surface of the skin, and the fingers turn blue or white when it is cold. When the blood flow returns, the skin may redden, and a vibration or tingling sensation may be felt.
  • Sores or injuries: About 95 percent of people with Lupus develop sores or damage inside the mouth or nose.
  • Fever, headache, hair loss, and fatigue.

Do not forget to tell your doctor all the symptoms you feel so that they can determine what is affecting your health.


The topical steroids’ high power can be used to treat existing lesions. Intralesional triamcinolone, in doses of 5 to 10 mg/cc, is often effective in treating existing scalp lesions (lower concentrations should be used for facial injuries).

Hydroxychloroquine is the most effective systemic therapy with the least amount of toxicity for patients. Other systemic medications that are beneficial for patients with Lupus erythematosus include thalidomide, dapsone, isotretinoin, and methotrexate.