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Definition of Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus: A chronic inflammatory condition caused by an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Patients with lupus have unusual antibodies in their blood that are targeted against their own body tissues.
Lupus can cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. When only the skin is involved, the condition is called discoid lupus. When internal organs are involved, the condition is called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Up to 10% of persons with discoid lupus (lupus limited to the skin) eventually develop the systemic form of lupus (SLE).
SLE is eight times more common in women than men. The causes of SLE are unknown. However, heredity, viruses, ultraviolet light, and drugs may all play a role.
Eleven criteria have been established for the diagnosis of SLE:
The treatment of SLE is directed toward decreasing inflammation and/or the level of autoimmune activity. Persons with SLE can help prevent "flares" of disease by avoiding sun exposure and by not abruptly discontinuing medications.
Last Editorial Review: 8/28/2013
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