Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), known more commonly as lupus, is an autoimmune disease in which an individual's immune system attacks the body's own cells and tissues. Although its exact causes are not known, most researchers believe heredity may be a factor. Although the disease affects members of both genders, nine out of ten lupus patients are women.

This chronic condition causes severe inflammation in numerous parts of the body, including joints, muscles and internal organs like the heart, lung and kidneys. Patients may experience a variety of symptoms that differ from person to person. It is often called "the great imitator" because it resembles so many other conditions.

The inflammation caused by lupus usually results in pain, heat, redness and swelling. Although the condition is chronic, most patients do not experience the symptoms continually. They may lie dormant for a time, and then exhibit themselves suddenly in what physicians call a "flare." Even if a patient remains free of symptoms for an extended period, it does not mean they are free of the disease.

Common Treatments:

Treatment for lupus is a lifelong strategy. Physicians usually prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-malarial drugs, corticosteroids and immunosuppressants to help control the pain and inflammation.

They also recommend a regimen of exercise, dietary changes and plenty of rest. Because sunlight seems to be an aggravating factor in the disease, they also recommend limiting exposure to the sun and using skin protection.
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