Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

By | June 10, 2022

A disease of the chronic autoimmune disorder systemic lupus erythematosus affects about 60,000 patients in Germany today. In the last 50 years, an increasing accumulation of lupus in the population has been observed. Women are ten times more likely to have this autoimmune disease than men. In lupus erythematosus, chronic inflammation primarily affects blood vessels, joints or organs such as the kidneys. Systemic lupus erythematosus cannot be completely cured.

What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Lupus erythematosus, or lupus for short, is a disease that varies in severity and is one of the autoimmune diseases or inflammation of the connective tissue and collagenosis. Lupus is often characterized by an intense redness that can affect certain areas of the skin. For what is kneecap arthrosis, please visit

It is caused by chronic inflammation of the blood vessels. Above all, the so-called “butterfly erythema” is known in lupus erythematosus, which can spread like a butterfly to the side of the nose on the face. The initial symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus can initially be diverse and relatively unspecific.

SLE is chronic and requires lengthy treatment. In addition to systemic lupus, there is also lupus that can only affect the skin. In order to confirm the diagnosis, systemic lupus must lead to several key symptoms and antibodies in the blood occurring at the same time. Systemic lupus erythematosus is also abbreviated by the letters SLE.


A chronic autoimmune disease is assumed to be the cause of lupus erythematosus or systemic lupus. In the course of this, the body’s own defense system is disturbed and misguided. The origin of the autoimmune disorder itself is still largely unexplained in terms of its causes.

The disease is called systemic lupus erythematosus because all systems in the body can actually be damaged by chronic inflammatory processes. This happens especially when the disease of SLE is not diagnosed and treated in time. Systemic lupus erythematosus is classified as an inflammatory rheumatic disease.

In the case of SLE, the cell nuclei, which contain the genetic material, are primarily attacked. It is not yet known whether lupus erythematosus is due to hereditary or hormonal reasons or due to an infection. The fact that women are more often affected makes hormonal contributors to SLE likely. In some cases, lupus has developed after taking a contraceptive. Hereditary reasons for lupus erythematosus are also possible.

Lupus erythematosus occurs in twins and is more common in some families. The connection between lupus erythematosus and surviving infectious diseases is also being investigated as a possible cause of SLE. The causation of systemic lupus is likely dependent on numerous factors.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The non-specific symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus include fever, general weakness and weight loss, and enlarged lymph nodes are usually noticed. SLE often manifests itself through inflammation of the joints, mainly in the hand – the tendon sheaths are often also affected.

Skin changes occur in about fifty percent of SLE patients: The so-called butterfly erythema is characteristic, which appears in the form of a symmetrical reddening of the cheeks up to the bridge of the nose. Rashes can also appear on other parts of the body and are made worse by exposure to the sun. Signs of kidney involvement can be swollen legs and eyelids or dark-colored urine.

In about one third of those affected, there is inflammation of the pleura or pericardium, which becomes noticeable through breathing-dependent chest pain. In about ten percent of cases, systemic lupus erythematosus affects the nervous system and can cause neurological symptoms such as sensory disturbances, headaches, visual disturbances and seizures, and psychological impairments such as personality changes, memory disorders and depression are also possible.

Rarely, SLE causes a blood clotting disorder with a tendency to thrombosis, embolism, infarction and pregnancy complications. Peritonitis is manifested by abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, myocarditis can cause cardiac arrhythmias or cardiac insufficiency associated with exercise-related shortness of breath. Muscle pain and weakness can indicate inflammation in skeletal muscle.


In lupus, the body’s immune system attacks the organism of the person affected. The antibodies that develop as a result of this disease can trigger inflammatory reactions throughout the body. This circumstance can make lupus life-threatening. Lupus can even damage entire organ systems.

Systemic lupus erythematosus can cause chronic inflammation of various organs, joints or connective tissue as it progresses. The course of the disease can be mild, moderate or dramatic. Lupus erythematosus can even be fatal if left untreated. This also applies if the treatment does not work or leads to complications.

Thanks to good medical care, systemic lupus can now be survived in 90 percent of cases. However, an increase in lupus has been observed for years. Women are among the most commonly affected patients with lupus erythematosus.


Systemic lupus erythematosus can cause complications throughout the body – serious consequences are possible, especially in the case of inflammation of the brain or kidneys. For example, chronic kidney failure can occur, as a result of which the patient has to be connected to a dialysis machine. When the brain becomes inflamed, neurological symptoms can occur – such as gait disorders or other deficits.

The antipholipid syndrome can lead to an activation of the blood coagulation system in the further course. This increases the risk of thrombosis, embolism or arterial vascular occlusion. If pregnant women are affected, there is an increased risk of miscarriage. Similar complications can occur in systemic lupus erythematosus.

Drug-induced lupus erythematosus affects the joints, the pleura, and occasionally the pericardium. After stopping the triggering drug, the symptoms usually disappear again. The treatment of the disease also carries risks.

The prescribed antimalarials are always associated with side effects and interactions. Headaches and body aches as well as temporary gastrointestinal complaints typically occur. Long-term use increases the risk of retinal damage. Similar risks come from painkillers, cholesterol-lowering drugs and other preparations.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of SLE, the person affected is dependent on medical treatment by a doctor. Since this disease cannot heal itself and the symptoms worsen if left untreated, an examination with subsequent treatment must be carried out in any case. This is the only way to prevent the development of further complications.

A doctor should be consulted for SLE if the person affected suffers from inflammation in the joints. There is a fever and a general feeling of illness. Not infrequently, patients also suffer from swollen legs or severe limitations in movement. Chest or heart pain can also be a sign of SLE and should be checked out by a doctor. Furthermore, visual problems or severe abdominal pain are often signs of this disease and must be examined if they do not go away on their own.

SLE can be diagnosed by a pediatrician or by a general practitioner. For further treatment, a visit to a specialist is usually necessary, as this depends on the exact symptoms.

Treatment & Therapy

Systemic lupus erythematosus is usually treated by a rheumatologist. A thorough medical history, blood tests and a clinical examination can confirm the suspicion of lupus.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is mainly treated with drugs that suppress the immune system. Lupus erythematosus is therefore often treated with cortisone preparations.


Prevention of lupus erythematosus is practically impossible. The best way to prevent lupus erythematosus is to avoid strong UV radiation. If you already suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus, you should avoid exposure to the sun and long periods of sunbathing.


As a result of the therapy, the cause of the disease remains untreated. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) does not heal. Based on the clinical findings, it can only be assessed for follow-up care whether the disease is progressing slowly (chronic-progressive course) or in phases. The main tasks of aftercare remain monitoring the course of the disease, checking the medication and identifying and treating newly added symptoms.

This requires regular checks of the “complete” blood count. During the follow-up examinations, the doctor treating you is dependent on a detailed description of the patient’s general state of health and symptoms. Because in medicine there are no recognized laboratory values ​​that can be used to reliably assess the activity of the SLE.

The inflammatory activity can eventually reduce by itself. Basically, however, SLE increases in severity and number of symptoms. Clinical stays may then be necessary to reassess the necessary medication. But even newly occurring symptoms cannot be cured, but can only be alleviated with medication.

The patient must learn to deal with SLE in everyday life. As a first step, a spa treatment is recommended. Drug-induced SLE is an exception to this. The follow-up examinations can be omitted as soon as the patient returns to good general health after stopping the offending drug.

You can do that yourself

Patients are advised to lead as healthy a lifestyle as possible. This includes physical exercise as well as avoiding alcohol, nicotine and too much coffee.

Changing your diet helps relieve symptoms. A whole-food diet that avoids egg and dairy products and eats foods that are as low in fat as possible has a beneficial effect on the disease. Olive oil is also recommended because it contains plenty of the fatty acid omega 9. This helps to reduce inflammation, which is fundamental in this clinical picture.

In the case of joint or muscle problems, wraps placed in herbal decoction can have a soothing effect. Medicinal herbs are also used to improve symptoms. These mainly include: angelica, garlic, ginger, marjoram, lemongrass, black pepper, lemon, basil, lemon balm and juniper.

In addition, a healthy digestive tract is essential for those affected, as many patients suffer from significant nutrient deficiencies. It is therefore particularly important to guarantee the correct nutrient intake. With probiotics, a healthy and strong intestinal flora can be promoted, which also helps to prevent inflammation. Massages are also part of the recommended treatment of symptoms. These noticeably help in reducing inflammation, detoxifying the body and reducing stress.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)