Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease involving various organ systems in the human body. It disproportionately affects women (9:1 female to male ratio).
Disease often starts by sunlight-induced skin burning and rashes (photosensitivity) and can cause (among other problems):
Recurrent mouth ulcers, especially on the tongue and palate
Significant patchy hair loss and hair thinning (‘lupus hair’)
Chest pain that lasts for weeks and is worse with deep breathing
Painful joint swelling and fevers
‘Brain fog’ and fatigue
Enlarged neck glands (lymph nodes)
‘Butterfly rash’ on the face and other sun-exposed areas (photo-distributed rash)
An SLE patient’s disease can flare up due to sun exposure and they’re counseled to wear sunscreen (at least SPF 50), hats, long sleeves, and to avoid the sun as much as possible.
Importance of Treatment:
SLE can have devastating consequences if left untreated, including permanent kidney failure, heart failure, blood clots, miscarriages, and severe skin disease. This is especially true in Africa-American patients who are the highest risk of any demographic in the US for developing irreversible renal failure.
There are many highly effective, low-risk treatments for SLE which can curb the disease and can be initiated as early as the first visit to a rheumatologist. Antimalarial medications such as hydroxychloroquine (called background therapy) are often the first line treatment.
SLE often requires a multi-specialty approach whereby a kidney specialist, a rheumatologist, and other specialists often work together for providing and optimizing the best patient care.