Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease which may affect many different organs and tissues in the body. Women of child bearing age are typically affected, but individuals of any age, sex, or race may develop the disease. SLE while uncommon, is not rare, with an estimated disease prevalence of 1 in every 2,000 population. It is a condition which appears to be increasing in prominence especially over the last 15 to 20 years. This is likely explained by the earlier recognition of milder cases because of increased patient and physician awareness and by the enhanced availability of sensitive laboratory tests helpful in the diagnosis. Although the exact cause is not known, most of the features of the disease seem to be due to a fundamental abnormality of the body's immune system. The immune system is the body's defence mechanism against foreign substances entering the body. It depends on the formation of compounds called antibodies and on hite cells called lymphocytes which rise to the defense of the body in case of invasion by foreign agents such as germs or viruses. This is a normal and desirable process in the healthy individual. In patients with SLE, there seems to be a defect in the body's immune system whereby antibodies are mistakenly formed against the body's own tissues. This leads to inflammation and damage in the tissues so affected. Patients with SLE can be identified by the presence of these abnormal antibodies in their blood stream. It is not clear what triggers this immune abnormality but several factors seem to be contributory in some patients. These include infection, hormonal, genetic, and unidentified environmental factors. Some drugs including those used for the treatment of tuberculosis (isoniazid), high blood pressure (hydralazine), and convulsions (dilantin) have also occasionally been associated with the development of SLE. Clinical Features
The majority of patients with SLE have very mild symptoms which can be...
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