Systemic lupus erythematosus: an overview

Soc Work Health Care. 2012;51(7):576-86. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2012.683369.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease of unknown etiology in which the normal immune responses are directed against healthy organs and tissues. The disregulated immune system produces antibodies that attack the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, and brain. Some people experience mild rashes and arthritis, others suffer debilitating fever, fatigue, joint pain, and severe organ and/or life-threatening disease. This article provides a medical overview of the epidemiology of SLE, the challenges of diagnosing SLE, the complexity of the clinical manifestations and treatment issues, and the impact of SLE on patients' lives. We also discuss the progress in understanding the disease and its therapy over the last century.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Distribution
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antimalarials / adverse effects
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Biological Products / adverse effects
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / genetics
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • Steroids / adverse effects
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Survival Analysis


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antimalarials
  • Biological Products
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Steroids