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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLS)

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

What is lupus? — When it is working normally, the body's immune system kills germs and "bad" cells that could turn into cancer. Sometimes, instead of killing only bad cells, something goes wrong and the immune system starts to attack healthy cells. That is called an autoimmune response. It is what happens in lupus. In other words, if you have lupus, your body is attacking itself.
What are the symptoms of lupus? — People with lupus can:
Feel tired or weak
Lose or gain weight
Get fevers
Get headaches
Get a butterfly-shaped rash on their nose and cheeks, especially after being in the sun
Lose some hair
Get chest pain
Have trouble breathing
Bruise easily
Have joint pain and stiffness
Have swelling in the hands, feet, belly, or around the eyes
Have urine that looks brown (tea-colored) or foamy
Get sores in the mouth
Get cold fingers or toes that turn pale or blue
Lupus can also make it hard to think clearly, and it can make people feel anxious and sad. That is partly because the disease attacks the brain, and partly because the disease is hard to deal with.
Can I do anything on my own to feel better? — Yes. It can help to eat a healthy diet, full of fruits and vegetables. It's also important to stay active, even if you do not feel well. If you rest too much, your muscles will get weak and you might feel even worse later. Also, any time a doctor or nurse gives you medicine, make sure he or she knows you have lupus. Some medicines make lupus worse. It is important that you not take them.
What are the treatments for lupus? — There are medicines that can ease lupus symptoms, decrease the autoimmune response, or both. These medicines include:
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (sample brand name: Aleve), which can ease joint pain
Medicines called "hydroxychloroquine" or "chloroquine," which were originally made to treat malaria but can also help with lupus
Steroids and related medicines, which partly "turn off" the immune system, and can help with many of the problems caused by lupus (these are not the same as the steroids some athletes take illegally)
Steroids can do a lot of good, because they control the disease. But they can also cause problems of their own. For instance, steroids can cause weight gain, make bones weak, or make diabetes worse (or even cause diabetes).
What if I want to get pregnant? — Women with lupus are more likely than other women to have problems with pregnancy. But they can have healthy babies.
If you would like to get pregnant, speak with your doctor or nurse before you start trying to get pregnant. There are ways for you to reduce the chances of having problems. For instance, it is important that you wait until you have not had lupus symptoms for at least 6 months.
How will lupus affect my life? — You will have lupus for the rest of your life. It might be severe, or it might be mild. Either way, doctors and nurses today know a lot about how to handle the disease. You are likely to live a long time. And you might even find that your symptoms go away for long periods.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15480 Version 11.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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