Gastrointestinal involvement in systemic lupus erythematosus: insight into pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment

World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jun 28;16(24):2971-7. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v16.i24.2971.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease characterized by the presence of a plethora of autoantibodies and immune complex formation. Virtually every system and organ can be affected by SLE. Gastrointestinal symptoms are common in SLE patients, and more than half of them are caused by adverse reactions to medications and viral or bacterial infections. Though not as common as lupus nephritis, SLE-related gastrointestinal involvement is clinically important because most cases can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Lupus mesenteric vasculitis is the most common cause, followed by protein-losing enteropathy, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, acute pancreatitis and other rare complications such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, etc. No specific autoantibody is identified as being associated with SLE-related gastroenteropathy. Imaging studies, particularly abdominal computed tomography scans, are helpful in diagnosing some SLE-related gastroenteropathies. Most of these complications have good therapeutic responses to corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents. Supportive measures such as bowel rest, nutritional support, antibiotics and prokinetic medications are helpful in facilitating functional recovery and improving the outcome.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / therapy
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis
  • Pancreatitis / etiology
  • Pancreatitis / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Protein-Losing Enteropathies / diagnosis
  • Protein-Losing Enteropathies / epidemiology
  • Protein-Losing Enteropathies / etiology
  • Protein-Losing Enteropathies / therapy