Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. This causes inflammation (swelling) in the skin, kidneys, lungs, nervous system, and other organs.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is very rarely seen in people before the age of 10. It is more common in females and in some 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. The main difference is that the care of children is different from that of adults because treatment can have a great impact on a child’s physical and psychological growth and development.

What are the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus in children?

Parents of children who have systemic lupus erythematosus often seek out a doctor due to the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Rashes on the face or upper body
  • Headaches
  • Easy bruising
  • Painful joints
  • Seizures or psychosis
  • Decline in school performance
  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression

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 predispose them to developing the disease. However, not all patients with these genetic findings develop lupus – some environmental trigger kicks off a response in the immune system to cause lupus. These possible triggers include:

  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Sun exposure
  • Drug reaction
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Hormones during puberty