Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – Dr. Sameer Sahay

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – Dr. Sameer Sahay

SLE or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is the name given to a disease of the immune system that affects multiple organs and dramatically alters a person’s life and wellbeing. The name is derived from ‘Lupus’ which means ‘Wolf’ in Latin. Lupus was once a feared disease, as it affects young people, especially women and rapidly causes damage to organs such as skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, nerves, joints etc.

For centuries it was not known why it occured, but now we know that it is passed on in families through a number of genes and aggravated by infections and exposure to sunlight. Relatives of people with SLE might also develop the disease more frequently than others.

One can suspect SLE if there is excess sunlight sensitivity, butterfly rash on the face, joint pains or swelling, excess hair loss, mouth ulcers, extreme weakness and fatigue. Not all symptoms occur together and many appear over years, which commonly leads to late diagnosis. It is also frequently confused with other illnesses like typhoid, TB, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, thyroid illness, depression, etc. due to similar symptoms. There are blood tests that help in the diagnosis but only in association with specific features. Some people may have positive tests but no Lupus, so one should not get worried over test results unless definitely diagnosed by a specialist.

Treatment for SLE is a joint effort between the doctor and patient, and those who carefully follow the doctor’s advice generally have a good outcome. Treatment should be taken as soon as possible, as organs once damaged may not recover fully. The good part is that nowadays there are many medications that are effective in controlling the illness and preventing organ damage. In fact, with appropriate medication and some precautions, most people can live a normal life and fulfill all their dreams and aspirations.

In summary, one should not ignore SLE to prevent suffering and damage to one’s body. But one should not fear it either, as with some effort and care, the ferocious ‘Wolf’ called SLE can be made into a harmless ‘pet dog’!



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