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Lupus | SLE

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects multiple systems of the body. Experts at MaineHealth are dedicated to diagnosing and treating lupus, so that patients can return to normal activities and have quality of life.

What is lupus?

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a long-term autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly fights its own body tissues. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, kidney, brain and other organs. Symptoms vary widely, and some may overlap with other diseases that affect joint tissue.

Causes of lupus

The cause of lupus is not fully known, but there are factors that researchers believe may trigger the disease, such as genetics, infection, certain medications, or extreme physical or emotional stress. Lupus is more common in women and appears most often in people between ages 10 and 50. People of African American and Asian descent are more often affected.

Lupus symptoms

Joint pain and swelling of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees are common. Other common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • General discomfort

  • Hair loss

  • Mouth sores

  • Sensitivity to sunlight

  • Skin rash

  • Swollen lymph nodes

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of lupus.

Diagnosing lupus

To be diagnosed with lupus, you must have four of the common signs and symptoms. Doctors will perform a complete physical examination and blood tests to confirm a diagnosis and rule out any other diseases. Some tests used to diagnose lupus include:

  • Antinuclear antibody test

  • Complete blood count

  • Chest X-ray

  • Serum creatinine levels

  • Urinalysis

Treatment for lupus

Treatment for lupus focuses on controlling pain and preventing flare-ups, where a person may feel much more tired, sick, feverish, and achy than usual. Treatment plans are dependent on the severity of the disease. Some treatment methods include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for joint symptoms

  • Corticosteroids

  • Immunosuppressive drugs

  • Antimalarial drugs

  • Preventative heart care

  • Osteoporosis screening

  • Wearing protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen when in the sun

Primary care is your first stop for healthcare

The primary care providers at MaineHealth have the compassion and skill to care for you and the entire family. They make your health and your family’s health the first priority.