★symptoms •treatment •prevention


What is Lupus?

Synonyms: les, systemic lupus erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), commonly known just as lupus, is an autoimmune disease that can affect mainly the skin, joints, kidneys, brain but also all the other organs.


Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks healthy tissues of the body by mistake. Among more than 80 known autoimmune diseases, lupus is one of the most important.


There are three types of lupus. Meet:

discoid lupus

Inflammation is always limited to the skin. This type can be identified from the appearance of reddish skin lesions that usually appear on the face, neck or scalp too.

systemic lupus

The inflammation occurs in the body, affecting various organs or systems of the body and the skin is not restricted. Some people with discoid lupus may develop into the systemic form. Symptoms caused by this type of the disease depend on the site of inflammation such as kidneys, heart, lungs and even the blood, in addition to skin lesions and the joints.

Drug-induced lupus

Some drugs or medications can cause temporary inflammation while its use and cause symptoms that are very similar to those of systemic lupus. The manifestations disappear with stop use.


Lupus occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys some healthy tissues of the body. It is not known exactly what causes this abnormal behavior, but research indicates that the disease is the result of a combination of factors such as genetics and environment.

These same studies show that people with a predisposition to lupus may develop the disease when in contact with any element of the environment capable of stimulating the immune system to act wrongly. What science does not yet know is what are all these components. The researchers, however, have some guesses:

  • Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight can initiate or aggravate a pre-existing inflammation to develop lupus
  • Medicines: lupus can also be related to the use of certain antibiotics, drugs used to control seizures and to high pressure. People like symptoms of lupus often stop when present discontinue use.

Risk factors

See what you can facilitate the incidence of lupus:

  • biological sex: the disease is more common in women than in men
  • Age: most diagnostic happens between 15 and 40 years, although it can occur at all ages
  • Ethnicity: lupus is more common in people african American, Hispanic and Asian.


Symptoms of Lupus

Symptoms of lupus can arise suddenly or develop slowly. They may also be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. Most patients with lupus presents mild symptoms, which occur sporadically in crises, in which symptoms worsen for a while and then disappear.

Symptoms may also vary according to the parts of the body that are affected by lupus. The most common signs are:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • muscle stiffness and swelling
  • rash - redness of the face in the form of "butterfly" on the cheeks and nose. It affects about half of people with lupus. The rash gets worse with sunlight and can also be generalized
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen when exposed to sunlight
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain to breathe deeply
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Headache, mental confusion and memory loss
  • enlarged lymph nodes
  • Loss of hair
  • Mouth sores
  • general discomfort, anxiety, malaise.

Other lupus symptoms depend on what part of the body affected:

  • Brain and nervous system: headache, numbness, tingling, seizures, vision problems, personality changes
  • Digestive tract: abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Heart: abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Lung: coughing up blood and difficulty breathing
  • Skin: uneven skin color, fingers that change color with the cold (Raynaud's phenomenon).

Some patients have only skin symptoms. This type is called discoid lupus.

Expert answers: People with lupus may experience tremor in the legs and hands?


Diagnosis and Examinations

In the medical consultation

Seek medical attention if you develop red spots on her face. These may be an appearance of skin rash.

Enjoy the query and take any questions you have. Also remember to make a complete description of your symptoms. This will help the doctor make the diagnosis of lupus type.

You can ask:

  • What tests will be needed to make the diagnosis?
  • Lupus has no cure?
  • The disease will greatly change my lifestyle, my daily life and my habits?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?

What to expect from the doctor?

During the medical consultation, the expert will also make you some questions. Be prepared to answer them:

  • Sun exposure usually causes the appearance of skin lesions?
  • Do you feel pain in the fingers when it's cold?
  • Among its symptoms are problems with memory and concentration?
  • The symptoms have impaired their performance at work or have hindered their social relationships?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with any other health problem?

Lupus Diagnosis

It is difficult to make the diagnosis for lupus, because the symptoms vary greatly from person to person, change over time, overlap each other and merge with the symptoms of other diseases.

The doctor will perform a physical exam and auscultará his chest with a stethoscope. An abnormal sound called pericardial or pleural friction rub may be heard. An examination of the nervous system can also be realized.

The tests used to diagnose lupus include:

  • Screening antibodies, including antinuclear antibody test
  • Complete blood count
  • Chest X-ray
  • renal biopsy
  • Urine analysis.

Treatment and Care

Lupus treatment

Treatment exists but there is no definitive cure for lupus, as well as other relatively diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The main goal of treatment is to control symptoms and improve the quality of life of people with the disease.

The mild disease can be treated with:

  • NSAIDs for arthritis and pleurisy
  • sunscreen for the skin lesions
  • Corticosteroids topic for small skin lesions
  • An antimalarial drug (hydroxychloroquine) and low dose steroids to skin symptoms and arthritis.

Severe symptoms or which result in risk of death (such as hemolytic anemia, extensive heart or lung involvement, kidney or central nervous system involvement) often require more aggressive treatment with specialists.

Treatment for more severe lupus include:

  • High-dose corticosteroids or medications to decrease the response of the body's immune system (immunosuppressants)
  • Cytotoxic drugs (drugs that block cell growth) if there is no improvement with corticosteroids or when symptoms worsen after stopping use. These drugs have serious side effects, so the physician should monitor the use very often.

Expert answers: A person diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus need multidisciplinary treatment?

Medicines for lupus

The most commonly used drugs for the treatment of lupus are:

  • Androcortil
  • azathioprine
  • Benevat
  • Betatrinta
  • betnovate
  • betamethasone
  • Bi Profenid
  • celestone
  • ketoprofen
  • Decadron
  • Diprospan
  • Duoflam
  • prednisolone
  • prednisone
  • Predsim
  • Profenid.

Only a doctor can tell what the most appropriate medicine for your case as well as the correct dosage and duration of treatment. Always follow strictly the guidelines of your doctor and NEVER automedique. Do not stop the drug without consulting a doctor before and, taking it more than once or in much larger quantities than prescribed, follow the instructions on the label.


Living (prognosis)

Living / Prognosis

If you have lupus, it is important to health care, especially with heart health in order to prevent more serious heart problems in the future. Moreover, it is also important to make a common analysis of immunization and testing to also check the health of bones (presence or absence of osteoporosis) and other diseases.

Psychotherapy and support groups can help alleviate depression and mood changes that may occur in patients with the disease.

Follow a few tips that can also improve their quality of life and help in the treatment:

  • Get plenty of rest. People with lupus often sentemse tired, but it is not a normal tiredness. It is fatigue, a symptom of the disease that needs to be addressed. The best remedy in this case is the rest
  • Beware of the sun. You must use protective clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen when exposed to the sun
  • Work out. Regular exercise can help in recovering from a crisis caused by lupus, reduce the risk of heart attack, treat symptoms of depression and overall body wellness
  • Do not smoke. The cigarette smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and may also worsen the effects of lupus
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eat many grains, fruits and vegetables. And if you have any restrictions because of the treatment or because of the disease itself, do not get off the diet.

The recovery of the individual depends on the severity of the disease. The result for people with lupus has improved in recent years.

Expert answers: Who has lupus can eat red meat?

Expert answers: Who has lupus can play sports?

Expert answers: Who has lupus can retire from the disease?

Expert Answers: Who has lupus can have children?

possible complications

If not treated properly, lupus can cause severe complications to several important organs of our body. Look:


The kidney failure is among the leading causes of death from lupus complications. Irritation, generalized itching, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and edema are among the symptoms of lupus that came to the kidneys.


You may have some specific symptoms if the brain has been affected, such as headache, confusion, dizziness, changes in behavior, hallucinations, stroke (stroke) and seizures.

Blood vessels

Anemia, increased risk of bleeding and inflammation of vessels (vasculitis) are among the possible complications arising from lupus.


Lupus can also lead to pleurisy, which can cause pain during respiration.


There may also be inflammation of the heart muscles and arteries and pericarditis. The chances of having a heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases also increase significantly.

Having lupus can also result in other problems such as:

  • Infection: The chances of a person with lupus develop some kind of infection increase much, because both the illness and the treatment compromise the immune system. The most common infections are urinary and respiratory tract, yeast, salmonella and herpes.
  • Cancer: The emergence of tumors and increase the cancer is also one of the possible complications of lupus.
  • avascular necrosis: Is the death of cells lining the bone, causing small fractures and disruption of many joints, especially the hips.
  • Pregnancy complications: Women who suffer from lupus and usually become pregnant are able to continue the pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby, since they do not have severe kidney or heart disease and lupus are being treated properly. However, the presence of lupus antibodies can increase the risk of loss in pregnancy.



There are no known ways to prevent lupus.


Questions about Lupus

  • Lupus causes physical and mental fatigue?
  • Who have lupus may have children?

Sources and references

  • Ministry of Health
  • Brazilian Association Overcoming Lupus
  • Brazilian Society of Rheumatology
  • Reviewed by: Brazilian Society of Rheumatology (SBR)