What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

It’s time to talk about lupus.


The immune system usually fights off dangerous infections and bacteria to keep the body healthy. An autoimmune disease occurs when it attacks the body because it confuses it for something foreign. There are many of them, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


According to the Lupus Foundation of America, at least 1.5 million Americans are living with diagnosed lupus. Lupus.org believes that the number of people who have the condition is much higher, and many cases go undiagnosed.


It usually takes several years and many doctors to diagnose. Meantime, the conditions worsen, and many of them are not reversible.


Symptoms can vary and can change over time. Common symptoms include severe fatigue, joint pain, joint swelling, headaches, a rash on the cheeks and nose, which is called a “butterfly rash”, hair loss, anemia, blood-clotting problems, fingers turning white or blue and tingling when cold, which is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon. Other symptoms depend on the part of the body the disease is attacking, such as the digestive tract, the heart, or the skin.


While the exact cause of SLE isn’t known, several factors have been associated with the disease, such as:

  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Environment (ultraviolet rays, certain medications, viruses, smoking, trauma).
  • Sex and hormones (SLE affects women more than men, and the female hormone estrogen may play a role in causing the disease).


After reflecting on what was going on in my life when lupus started, I was able to identify what made it happen in the first place — I was working long hours in a high-stress job and parallel trying to manage my personal life and two kids. I was not listening to my body and forgetting about my own needs.


My diagnose came during a physical exam to check for annoying, weird rashes and big bruises on my leg that would not go away. Amazingly it was my allergist who was able to figure it out, and I am forever thankful for that.


Were you able to identify what triggers your first symptoms and ongoing flares?


For me, emotional stress is the biggest one. What is yours?


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