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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory illness that belongs to the group of autoimmune diseases in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Normally the immune system produces a series of antibodies (defenses) to protect the organism from virus, bacteria and other foreign substances called antigens. In autoimmune illnesses such as lupus, the immune system does not differentiate, mistakenly, between foreign particles (antigens) and its own cells or tissues and produces antibodies against them. These antibodies are called autoantibodies and are responsible for causing inflammation and tissue damage.

Lupus can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs, but in half of the lupus patients, the skin and joints are almost exclusively affected. Despite being chronic, lupus can alternate periods of greater activity or of more symptoms (exacerbation) with others of inactivity (remission).Nine times ore women are affected than men and it is much more frequent between the ages of 17 and 35 although it can appear at any age.

The underlying cause of this disease is not fully known. It is probable that the agent that triggers the disease be a virus but at the same time, a sum of factors is necessary for the disease to appear, especially to be genetically predisposed and have hormonal factors.

Symptoms

Lupus has a great variety of clinical manifestations, although the most frequent forma of lupus are skin manifestations (eruptions on the face and other areas exposed to the sun) and in the joints (mainly pain and inflammation, morning stiffness and deformities can appear as in some cases). Additionally, diverse general symptoms (tiredness, weight loss, prolonged fever) can appear or it can affect other organs such as kidneys, heart, lungs, nervous system and alterations in blood clotting.

Prevention

As its exact cause of what triggers lupus is unknown, there are no effective measures for preventing the disease. Once lupus is diagnosed, a doctor can recommend measures to prevent or reduce the appearance of the symptoms and complications of the illness: avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, get physical exercise, follow an adequate diet (low in fats, salt, sugars, and rich in fiber). Nonetheless, there are different medicines (principally anti-inflammatories and corticoids) to combat the symptoms when they appear.

Gene or region studied

  • IRF5
  • SKIV2L
  • TYK2
  • ITGAM
  • 7q32.1
  • MECP2
  • STAT4
  • HLA-DQA1
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