Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system (which normally protects the body from infections) mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation, swelling and pain.
The symptoms and severity of SLE vary greatly between people. Many people experience tiredness, weight loss and a mildly raised temperature (fever). Other common symptoms of SLE include:
SLE also has the potential to cause damage to affected parts of the body, such as the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs.
No one knows why SLE occurs, but possible triggers include infections, certain medicines or sunlight. Hormonal changes may play a role in SLE, which could explain why the condition is much more common in women. Cigarette smoking and stress may also be factors in the development of SLE or cause symptoms to flare up.
SLE is not contagious but it does have a hereditary component, so careful reporting of family medical information is important.
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