What Is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)?

78405917Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common type of lupus, and is therefore often referred to simply as “lupus.” It is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks the body as if it were a foreign object. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans have diagnosed SLE, with additional undiagnosed cases.

Causes of SLE

There is no known cause of SLE. However, there are certain factors that can make you more susceptible:

  • Genetics—If a family member has SLE or another autoimmune disease, you are more prone to having it as well.
  • Environment—Certain environmental factors may contribute to SLE, including ultraviolet rays, a virus, certain medications, trauma and physical or emotional stress.
  • Gender and Hormones—SLE affects women more than men, and women’s symptoms often get worse during pregnancy and menstruation.

Symptoms of SLE

There are many symptoms associated with SLE, which vary depending on the person. Common symptoms are:

  • severe fatigue
  • headaches
  • painful or swollen joints
  • hair loss
  • anemia
  • rash on cheeks and nose (“butterfly” rash)
  • Raynaud’s syndrome
  • blood-clotting problems

SLE can cause complications to other parts of the body as well, including the heart, kidney and brain.

Diagnosing SLE

There is no specific test for lupus, but certain screenings can help your doctor determine whether you have it, including blood tests, urinalysis and a chest x-ray. Your doctor may also refer you to a rheumatologist, who specializes in autoimmune diseases and joint and soft tissue disorders.

Treatment for SLE

There is no cure for SLE, but treatment can ease the symptoms. The treatment largely depends on which part of your body is being affected, but can include:

  • anti-inflammatory medications to reduce stiffness and lessen joint pain
  • steroid creams for rashes
  • corticosteroids to minimize immune system response
  • antimalarial drugs for problems with skin and joints

Long-Term Complications of SLE

Since there is no cure for SLE, some individuals with the condition develop long-term complications. These can include blood clots, stroke, heart inflammation and lung damage. It can also cause complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage. Your doctor can help you reduce the risk of such complications.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic health condition, but it often isn’t a death sentence. Many with SLE are able to lead full—albeit measured—lives and enjoy decades with loved ones.

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Don’t Ignore that Bump or Lump

Blister After Having Liquid Nitrogen Therapy For Removal Of Precancerous GrowthSometime throughout your life, you will probably notice a bump or lump appear on your body. Some are harmless, while others should be checked by a doctor. Below are five types of lumps and bumps, some of which are harmless, and some that need medical attention

  1. Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can be either in the form of a melanoma or non-melanoma. The latter is more easily recognizable as something that needs to be checked, as it presents either as a reddish bump that bleeds easily or a patch of skin that won’t heal. Melanomas are dark spots and are more serious. By following the acronym “ABCDE,” you can determine whether a spot may be a melanoma.

  • Asymmetry—If your spot doesn’t look the same on both sides, it’s asymmetrical.
  • Borders—If the outline of the spot is rigid, wavy or uneven.
  • Color—If the spot is a different color or changes color over time.
  • Diameter—If your spot is larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser (more than a quarter inch or five millimeters).
  • Elevation or Evolution—If the spot is raised above your skin (like a bump) or if it changes over time (evolves).

If your spot has any of these characteristics, you should contact your doctor.

  1. Warts

Warts are bumps caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is contagious. Warts are the same color as your skin, and they usually exist in clumps. They vary in severity, so if you have warts that aren’t going away, or warts in your genital area, you will want to contact your doctor. Genital warts have been linked to cervical cancer, so the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that girls get their first HPV vaccination when they are 10 or 11, or later if they haven’t yet gotten one.

  1. Cysts

Cysts feel like small balls or pebbles, and they are yellowish round lumps that form under the skin. Cysts stay relatively small, and a cyst can form from a variety of situations, including a blocked follicle. Usually, cysts don’t cause health problems, but you may need to get yours removed if it’s in a delicate location, like the brain, or if it is in an area that causes you discomfort.

  1. Angiomas

Angiomas are small collections of blood vessels that resemble bright red or purple bumps. They don’t bleed and usually stay the same size, so they often don’t require treatment.

  1. Moles and Freckles

Moles are skin cells that didn’t disperse throughout your body and therefore retain a dark pigmentation. Freckles are dark spots that usually appear from sun exposure and are more common on light-skinned individuals. Both moles and freckles are harmless in and of themselves, but you should watch both to see if they change size or appearance. Either change could be an indication that they aren’t in fact just moles or freckles.

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