What is Lupus? Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects multiple organ systems of the body, creating a heavy burden on morbidity and mortality. The prevalence varies among ethnicities, with a higher incidence in Caucasians and African Americans than in Asian and Hispanic populations. Women are at a significantly higher risk of SLE, but men who are affected generally have more severe symptoms. The age of onset is most common during childbearing years, but SLE may occur at any age. Lupus diagnosed during childhood is often more severe.

What Causes Lupus?

The understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of Lupus is still evolving. As with most autoimmune disorders, interactions between genetic, immunological, and environmental factors are thought to be involved. 

The trigger for the development of lupus include common environmental insults such as UV light, Ebstein Barr Virus, cigarette smoking, and drugs that increase oxidative stress. Exposure to these environmental factors leads to cell damage and causes apoptosis. Genetic vulnerabilities that include deficiencies in some complement proteins result in insufficient clearance of the apoptotic bodies and expose the cell’s inner proteins and nuclear material to the immune system which then becomes sensitized and producse antibodies when next exposed to these materials The antibodies form complexes and deposit into tissues where they cause inflammation that is likely responsible for the symptoms of lupus.

Symptoms of Lupus

Systemic symptoms of lupus involve:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Myalgias
  • Changes in weight

Symptoms affecting organ systems include:

  • Arthritis
  • Malar rash on the cheeks
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Reynaud’s phenomenon
  • Vasculitis
  • Lupus nephritis
  • Pericardial inflammation
  • Neurological symptoms, such as confusion, changes in mood, problems with memory, and seizures
  • Dry eye syndrome

Source: Kiriakidou, M., & Ching, C. L. (2020). Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Annals of Internal Medicine, 172(11), ITC81–ITC96.