What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (or SLE for short) is an autoimmune condition, which means it is caused by problems with the immune system (the body's natural defence against illness and infection). In people with SLE, the immune system starts to attack healthy cells, tissue and organs. The reasons for this aren't clearly understood.

Common symptoms of SLE include tiredness, joint pain and skin rashes. Some people may have only mild symptoms whereas others may be more severely affected. Many people will have long periods of time with few or no symptoms (called 'remission') before experiencing a sudden flare-up when their symptoms are particularly severe (called 'a relapse').

SLE can sometimes cause serious complications, such as kidney failure or heart disease, and some treatments for SLE can make a person vulnerable to serious infections. Lupus nephritis is a complication of SLE in which the kidneys become inflamed, and can't work normally.

There is no cure for SLE. However, various treatments are available that can help ease symptoms and minimise the impact SLE has on daily life.