The most common form of lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, blood vessels and organs. This chronic, inflammatory disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body attacks healthy cells with an overactive immune response. The cause is unknown.
SLE sufferers may go through years of red rashes, extreme fatigue, painful or swollen joints, and/or fevers without ever noticing a pattern to the flares or a doctor ever being able to diagnose SLE. These symptoms may come and go all at once and can be mild or severe.
Symptoms of SLE:
Many lupus patients suffer joint pain and inflammation of the joints, most commonly in the knees, wrists, fingers and hands. Inflammation of the heart can also be a symptom of lupus in the form of pericarditis, endocarditis or myocarditis. Other SLE symptoms include:
- butterfly rash
- muscle aches
- swollen glands
- chest pain
- oral or nasal ulcers, and
- hair loss
Diagnosis of SLE:
Lupus is often diagnosed through an anti-nuclear anitbody (ANA) blood test. An ANA test identifies autoantibodies that attack the body’s own tissues and cells. A positive ANA does not automatically mean a person has lupus, but is rather one piece of the puzzle of lupus diagnosis. Some of the other pieces include a patient’s symptoms, a physical examination and other laboratory tests.
Other autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma can also show a positive ANA.
Source: Systemic lupus erythematosus. Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia. A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.