Neuropsychiatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2000 Sep;2(5):473-485. doi: 10.1007/s11940-000-0045-7.


The treatment of patients with neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus (NPSLE) can be difficult and complex owing to the variety of nervous system manifestations that can occur, which include peripheral nerve disease, headaches, seizures, cerebrovascular disease, chorea, transverse myelitis, and psychiatric and cognitive disorders. Many of these manifestations can result from metabolic abnormalities or infection or as side effects of medications. Thus, in any patient with suspected NPSLE, it is crucial to exclude secondary causes of the presenting symptoms before assuming that they are due to NPSLE. It is especially important to exclude infection because this is a common cause of both morbidity and mortality in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Symptoms such as anxiety and depression may or may not be related to disease activity. Treatment decisions are based on accurate diagnosis of the specific NPSLE manifestation, which is usually made using tools such as brain imaging, electroencephalography, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, nerve conduction studies, or special serologic tests (eg, determination of antiphospholipid or antiribosomal P antibody levels). It is also important to assess the degree of other SLE- mediated systemic disease activity in a patient with neurologic manifestations to determine if activation of systemic disease activity is also occurring. This is done by measuring complement levels, anti-double-stranded DNA levels, complete blood count, and urinalysis. For some NPSLE manifestations (eg, infrequent seizures, headaches, depression, anxiety, or peripheral neuropathy) that appear without activation of systemic disease, symptomatic treatment is appropriate. For others (eg, psychosis, delirium, or transverse myelopathy without other obvious cause), treatment with high-dose glucocorticoids with or without cyclophosphamide is appropriate whether there is evidence of other systemic disease activity or not. In general, the activity and severity of the leading organ manifestations dictate pharmacologic treatment.