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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of joints, tendons, skin, blood vessels and other connective tissue, and organs. SLE causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the body's healthy cells and tissue. Of all the forms of lupus, SLE is the most common and most well-known.

Components of the Immune System

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The cause of SLE is unknown. The manifestations of the disease are due to antibodies that attack the body's own tissues. Why these antibodies appear is unknown. There are certainly genetic factors involved: identical twins share the disease one-quarter to one-half of the time, and it tends to run in families. The disease may be triggered by environmental factors, such as infections or chemicals.

Antibody

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The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus. Ninety percent of people diagnosed with the disease are women. It mainly occurs between the ages of 15-45. SLE is 2-3 times more prevalent among women of color, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans.

References:

Handout on health: Systemic lupus erythematosus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Lupus/default.asp. Updated August 2011. Accessed June 28, 2013.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated June 13, 2013. Accessed June 28, 2013.

Understanding lupus. Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learnunderstanding.aspx?articleid=2231&zoneid=523. Accessed June 28, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD; Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.