What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that affects various part of body. It is caused by immune system that mistakenly attacks the body's own tissue, which leads to inflammation in the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and other organs.

Systemic lupus erythematosus in children

Systemic lupus erythematosus typically begins to be seen in the teenage years (average age is 12). It is rarely seen in children before the age of 5. It is more common in females and in certain ethnic groups, such as African-American, Hispanic, South and Southeast Asian, and Native American.

Systemic lupus erythematosus affects children in the same ways that it affects adults except the disease can be more severe, involve more organs, and have more laboratory abnormalities.

What causes systemic lupus erythematosus?

The exact causes of systemic lupus erythematosus are unknown. In general, patients who have lupus are born with genetic factors that cause the immune system to become overactive. However, not all patients with a genetic predisposition develop lupus. Some environmental trigger kicks off a response in the immune system to cause lupus. These possible triggers include:

  • Infection
  • Sun exposure
  • Drug reaction
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Hormones during puberty

What are the signs and symptoms of systemic lupus erythematous?

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Red rash on the cheeks and bridge of the nose (appears in about one-third of cases)
  • Disc-shaped rash with raised patches, with possible scarring from previous outbreaks
  • Skin rash due to sun exposure
  • Sores in the mouth or nose
  • Arthritis in two or more of the small joints
  • Fluid surrounding the heart or lungs
  • Kidney problems
  • Seizures or psychosis
  • Low red blood cell (anemia), platelet, or white blood cell counts
  • Abnormal antibody testing
  • High laboratory readings for anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA)

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