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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic (long-term) autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues in many parts of the body including the joints, skin, and other organs. SLE is also referred to as “lupus” but it is important to understand that there are other types of “lupus”.

SLE causes a wide range of symptoms that can be very different from person to person. It is called the disease of 1000 faces as it can happen 1000 different ways in 1000 different people. No two people with SLE are the same! Symptoms can come and go and can range in severity from mild to severe. It is a tricky disease to diagnose because it can mimic the symptoms of other illnesses, and because of how symptoms can unpredictably change.

Among all of the possible symptoms, the most common features of SLE are feeling tired and pain. These can occur when the body’s immune system is “activated” and is busy attacking the body’s tissues. Another common symptom is a type of rash on the face called a malar rash or butterfly rash, which will occur in about half of people with the disease.

The reason that the immune system attacks the body’s tissues in SLE is not well understood. Experts believe that a wide number of factors including the environment and genetic factors may involved.

SLE mostly affects women of childbearing age. Women get it about nine times more often than men. It is estimated that about 1 in 1,000 people have SLE.