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Everything you need to know about Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Sep 04, 2019 | 5 months ago | Read Time: 3 minutes | By iKnowledge Team
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

What is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)?

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when a person’s immune system is unable to distinguish healthy body tissue from an unhealthy tissue. The immune system then attacks the healthy tissue instead, which leads to multiple complications. What causes lupus in an individual is not entirely clear; but what is believed is, that it is a combination of genetics as well as environmental conditions. For instance, statistics show that if one of a pair of identical twins is affected by lupus, there is a high chance that the other twin will automatically also be affected by the disease. Research also indicates that first-degree relatives of people with lupus have an eight- to tenfold increased risk of contracting the disease, in comparison to others.

Adding to the risk factors is the presence of progesterone and oestrogen (in women), smoking, deficiency of Vitamin D, and possibly even certain infections. Some drugs, toxins and even diets may also be a cause for lupus to get triggered. Several forms of lupus have been identified; the most common of which is lupus that occurs on account of anti-nuclear antibodies that result in inflammation. Drug-induced lupus that is caused by exposure to a drug for a specific period of time goes away on discontinuation of that particular drug.

Lupus is called as a multisystem disease because it can affect different organs and tissues in the body. Some of your organs though, are more prone to an attack compared to others. The musculoskeletal system, for instance, is particularly vulnerable. Arthritis of lupus is typically found on both sides of the body, while the muscles can get inflamed, making the person feel weak. In more than 90 per cent of people with lupus, the skin gets affected. Known as cutaneous lupus, its primary characteristic is a redness on the cheeks, known as the malar blush. Lupus nephritis is lupus of the kidneys, which ranges from mild to severe. The nervous system can also be at risk, with serious brain and nerve problems as well as psychiatric syndromes occurring in as many as 15 per cent of people with lupus.

Symptoms and Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Depending on the intensity of the disease, the symptoms may vary, and so do the treatment patterns. Those with a milder case of lupus can be treated with simpler medications, while the more serious cases can even be life-threatening.

Here are the symptoms associated with lupus, and given the general nature of the symptoms, it is often difficult to diagnose lupus in the initial stages. Among the most common complaints at the onset of the disease are fever, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Very often, these are confused with flu symptoms. Other symptoms include:

  • A ‘butterfly rash’ on the cheeks and nose
  • Hair loss
  • Anaemia
  • Problems with blood clotting
  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon, wherein the fingers turn white or blue and tingle, when cold

The only sure-fire way to get an accurate diagnosis of lupus is by running tests, some of which include a physical examination to ascertain the presence of the butterfly rash, ulcers in the mouth or nose, signs of cardiac or lung problems. Your doctor would also require blood tests, urine analysis and a chest x-ray. Further investigation may also require the intervention of a rheumatologist.

There is no known cure for lupus. The only line of treatment that can be carried out, is to ease the symptoms and make the patient as comfortable as possible. A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication for joint stiffness and pain, steroids to control the rash, and other relevant drugs such as corticosteroids, as may be required. Research also indicates that modification in your diet and lifestyle may reduce the frequency and/ or intensity of the symptoms.


A health insurance policy is what can make the difference between being able to provide basic versus quality healthcare to your loved ones in case lupus strikes. Given the nature of the disease, term insurance clubbed with a critical illness policy will take care of both life cover plus additional coverage.

Make sure your loved ones are secured with a robust financial life, even in your absence.  To know about Aegon Life’s life insurance products like health insurance and other products, visit our home page.

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