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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Children

Your teen’s immune system is supposed to protect them. But sometimes, it can go rogue and make them sick.

Suddenly, instead of looking forward to going to high school or finding the perfect prom dress, your child’s facing a chronic disease. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) most often shows up during the tween or teen years (around ages 12-18). This autoimmune disease attacks your child’s body causing all sorts of painful symptoms — and even organ damage.

At Cleveland Clinic Children's, we’ll help them keep their lupus in check. Not just now, but for their entire life. We’ll work with your family to answer your questions and ease your mind. And we’ll design personalized treatments to manage your child’s lupus symptoms and flares, so they can go back to enjoying being young and carefree.

Why Choose Us to Care for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Children?

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Caring approach:

Our compassionate team helps your child learn about lupus and understand how the condition affects their body. This can help them feel more in control of their health and have better physical and mental well-being. Meet our team.

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Skilled collaborative providers:

Systemic lupus erythematosus attacks many different parts of your child’s body. Our pediatric healthcare providers work together across specialties to treat and manage all aspects of your child’s lupus so they can feel better and enjoy life.

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Innovation and research:

Our providers play a leading role in childhood rheumatic disease research throughout North America. We offer clinical trials with the latest lupus treatments through our involvement with the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA).

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National recognition:

Cleveland Clinic Children’s is a trusted healthcare leader. We’re recognized throughout the U.S. for our expertise and care.

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Virtual visits:

When you need a quick check-in with your child’s providers, our online virtual visits let you meet with them one-on-one from home, school or even on vacation. All you need is an internet connection — and a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Diagnosing Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Children

Systemic lupus erythematosus (the most common form of lupus) causes inflammation throughout your child’s body. Most often it shows up when they reach puberty and rarely ever before age 5.

When your child has SLE, it means their body is attacking itself and causing immune reactions like rashes, joint pain and fever. It can also damage their heart, lungs, brain and kidneys — and cause serious complications.

Catching and managing pediatric lupus early can keep your child’s symptoms from flaring up and constantly damaging their body.

Childhood lupus often has symptoms that can look like other conditions — fatigue, rashes and weight loss. This makes it a tricky condition to diagnose. If your child has had four or more signs and symptoms of lupus, it can help make a diagnosis easier. So at their first visit, your child’s care team will start by talking with you about their symptoms and doing a physical exam.

During this exam, we’ll also ask if you have any family history of lupus or other autoimmune diseases. We might also do blood and urine tests to rule out any other conditions that might’ve caused their symptoms. Our specialists consider all symptoms and test results when confirming your child’s diagnosis.

Meet Our Pediatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Team

If you choose Cleveland Clinic Children's to care for your child, you’ll work with a team of skilled pediatric healthcare providers who are experienced treating lupus and its symptoms. Your child’s care team could include:


At Cleveland Clinic Children's, we're here when you need us most. Find a location near you.

Treating Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Children

Children can have mild or aggressive SLE, but the condition tends to affect children more severely than adults. Although systemic lupus is a chronic (lifelong) condition, our providers will work with you and your child to control their symptoms, keep their organs healthy and put the SLE into remission. Remission means your child temporarily recovers (has no symptoms) from SLE, but their symptoms may return in the future.

Every child experiences childhood lupus differently.

While one child may be tired all the time and have joint pain, another might only get rashes. That’s why we believe personalized treatment is important. We’ll help your child (and you) understand how systemic lupus affects their body and what triggers their flare-ups, and work to get them back into remission.


Your child will likely need lifelong medication to control their immune system. During flare-ups, they might also need to take additional drugs to help them with their symptoms. We may recommend one or a combination of medications, such as:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and provide fast relief during lupus flare-ups.
  • Immunosuppressants, typically hydroxychloroquine, to slow down their immune system and protect your child’s organs from damage. We may use stronger immunosuppressants if your child’s lupus doesn’t respond to other treatments.
  • Medications to help with joint pain.

Lifestyle management

Your child’s care team will consider the whole picture when it comes to your child’s health. We’ll make sure your child stays ahead of systemic lupus erythematosus and its complications with preventive screenings and the right vaccinations (shots).

Our team will help your child find ways to eat better, exercise more and get a good night’s sleep. We encourage healthy habits like these and sunscreen use, too. We help your child understand what actions may cause pediatric lupus flare-ups so they can feel more in control of their life.

Mental health support

We understand how hard and frustrating dealing with a chronic condition can be. And your child may like extra help learning to manage and cope with their lupus. Our experienced pediatric psychiatrists and psychologists support your child’s mental health — including feelings of anxiety and depression.

Taking the Next Step

Your child’s systemic erythematosus lupus diagnosis might feel overwhelming, but there are many ways to manage and cope with this chronic condition so your child can live an active life. Cleveland Clinic Children’s experienced, caring pediatric providers are here to help them keep their symptoms under control and flare-ups to a minimum so they can enjoy all of the important teenage milestones ahead.

Scheduling a visit with Cleveland Clinic Children’s systemic erythematosus lupus experts is easy. We’re here for your child.


Scheduling a visit with Cleveland Clinic Children’s systemic erythematosus lupus experts is easy. We’re here for your child.

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