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About Systemic Lupus Erythematosus


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, leading to inflammation and damage. SLE is characterized by periods of flare-ups and remission, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Clinical trials are crucial in advancing our understanding and treatment of SLE. These trials are research studies that evaluate new treatments, interventions, or approaches to managing SLE. By participating in clinical trials, individuals with SLE can contribute to the development of better therapies for themselves and others.

Centrial.org is focused on connecting individuals with SLE to clinical trials relevant to their condition. It provides a valuable service by matching participants to trials based on their health profiles, helping to streamline the recruitment process for researchers and potentially speeding up the development of new treatments for SLE.

About Systemic lupus erythematosus

What is SLE?

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect multiple organs and tissues in the body. In SLE, the immune system, which normally protects the body from infections, mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, leading to inflammation and damage. This can result in a wide range of symptoms and complications, including joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, and organ damage.

Symptoms of SLE

Systemic lupus erythematosus can present with a variety of symptoms affecting multiple organs and systems in the body. Some of the common symptoms include:
  • Joint pain and stiffness, often affecting multiple joints throughout the body.
  • Fatigue and weakness, which can be debilitating and persistent.
  • Skin rashes, such as the characteristic butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose, as well as other types of skin lesions.
  • Fever, which may occur intermittently during disease flares.
  • Chest pain, which can be caused by inflammation of the lining around the heart (pericarditis) or inflammation of the heart muscle itself (myocarditis).
  • Photosensitivity, or increased sensitivity to sunlight, leading to skin rashes or worsening of existing skin symptoms upon sun exposure.
  • Mouth ulcers, which are typically painless and may appear on the inside of the mouth or nose.
  • Hair loss, which can be diffuse or patchy and may occur as a result of the inflammatory process.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon, characterized by the fingers or toes turning white or blue in response to cold or stress, followed by redness and warmth.
In addition to these symptoms, SLE can also affect other organs, leading to symptoms such as:
  • Blood disorders, including anemia (low red blood cell count), leukopenia (low white blood cell count), and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count).
  • Kidney involvement, known as lupus nephritis, which can cause symptoms such as swelling of the legs, foamy urine, or high blood pressure.
  • Lung involvement, which can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, or chest pain.
  • Heart involvement, which may manifest as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, or swelling in the legs.
  • Neurological symptoms, including headaches, seizures, cognitive dysfunction, or mood changes.
These symptoms may vary in severity and frequency among individuals with SLE. It's essential for individuals experiencing any of these symptoms to consult a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and management.

Triggers of SLE

Systemic lupus erythematosus is characterized by periods of flare-ups and remission, with symptoms worsening temporarily during flare-ups. Understanding common triggers can help individuals with SLE manage their condition more effectively. Some triggers of SLE flare-ups include: 


Emotional or physical stress can exacerbate SLE symptoms, leading to increased inflammation and disease activity. Stress management techniques such as relaxation exercises, meditation, and counseling may help individuals with SLE cope with stress more effectively.


Exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light can trigger skin rashes and other symptoms in individuals with SLE, a phenomenon known as photosensitivity. Individuals with SLE need to protect themselves from sun exposure by wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen with a high SPF, and avoiding direct sunlight during peak hours.


Infections, such as colds, flu, or other viral or bacterial illnesses, can trigger flare-ups of SLE symptoms. Individuals with SLE need to take precautions to prevent infections, such as practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, and staying up-to-date with vaccinations recommended for people with autoimmune diseases.


Certain medications, such as antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and some blood pressure medications, may trigger drug-induced lupus in susceptible individuals. Drug-induced lupus typically resolves once the medication is discontinued, but individuals should consult their healthcare providers if they experience new or worsening symptoms after starting a new medication.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, can affect SLE symptoms in some individuals. Women with SLE should work closely with their healthcare providers to manage their symptoms during hormonal changes and may need adjustments to their treatment regimen.
It's important for individuals with SLE to be aware of these common triggers and to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized management plan. By avoiding triggers and following a proactive approach to managing their condition, people with SLE can reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups and improve their overall quality of life.

Diagnosing of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Diagnosing systemic lupus erythematosus involves a thorough evaluation by healthcare professionals. The process typically includes:

Medical History

Healthcare providers gather information about the patient's symptoms, medical history, and family history of autoimmune diseases.

Physical examination

A physical examination helps identify any signs of inflammation or organ involvement.

Laboratory tests

Blood tests are commonly used to detect specific antibodies and assess organ function. These tests may include the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test, complete blood count (CBC), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).

Clinical Criteria

Healthcare providers may use established clinical criteria, such as the 2019 European League Against Rheumatism/American College of Rheumatology classification criteria, to aid in the diagnosis of SLE.

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Several diagnostic tests and procedures play a crucial role in confirming a diagnosis of SLE. These include:
  • Lupus-specific antibody tests: These tests detect antibodies commonly found in individuals with SLE, such as anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibodies and anti-Smith (Sm) antibodies.
  • Kidney biopsy: A kidney biopsy may be performed to evaluate kidney damage in cases of suspected lupus nephritis.
  • Imaging studies: Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI scans may be used to assess organ damage caused by SLE, such as lung or heart involvement.

Challenges in diagnosing SLE

Diagnosing SLE can be challenging due to several factors, including:
  • Overlapping symptoms: SLE symptoms can mimic those of other autoimmune diseases, making diagnosis difficult.
  • Variable presentation: SLE can affect different organs and tissues in different individuals, leading to a wide range of symptoms and manifestations.
  • Diagnostic delays: Due to the complexity of SLE and the variability of symptoms, diagnosis may be delayed, leading to prolonged suffering and potential organ damage.
Navigating these challenges requires close collaboration between patients and healthcare providers to ensure timely and accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of SLE.

Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

The treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) aims to achieve several goals, including:
  • Controlling disease activity: Medications and lifestyle modifications are used to reduce inflammation and prevent flare-ups of SLE symptoms.
  • Minimizing organ damage: Treatment aims to prevent or minimize damage to organs affected by SLE, such as the kidneys, heart, lungs, and skin.
  • Improving quality of life: By effectively managing symptoms and preventing complications, treatment can help individuals with SLE live healthier, more comfortable lives.

Medications for SLE

Several medications are commonly used to manage symptoms and prevent complications in individuals with SLE:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs can help reduce joint pain and inflammation associated with SLE.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are powerful anti-inflammatory medications used to control inflammation and suppress the immune system in individuals with moderate to severe SLE.
  • Antimalarial drugs: Antimalarial medications, such as hydroxychloroquine, are often used to treat skin rashes, joint pain, and fatigue in individuals with SLE.
  • Immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressive medications, such as azathioprine, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, and cyclophosphamide, may be prescribed to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation in individuals with severe SLE or lupus nephritis.

Lifestyle and Self-care Tips for SLE

In addition to medications, lifestyle modifications and self-care strategies can help individuals with SLE manage their condition more effectively:
  • Protecting against sun exposure: Sunlight can trigger flare-ups of SLE symptoms, so individuals with SLE need to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and avoid direct sunlight during peak hours.
  • Getting regular exercise: Regular exercise can help improve joint flexibility, reduce fatigue, and promote overall health and well-being in individuals with SLE. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and yoga are often recommended.
  • Eating a healthy diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help support overall health and reduce inflammation in individuals with SLE.
  • Managing stress: Stress can exacerbate SLE symptoms, so it's important for individuals with SLE to practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation exercises.
By following these treatment strategies and making positive lifestyle changes, those with SLE can effectively manage their condition and improve their quality of life. Close collaboration with healthcare providers is essential to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to the individual's needs and preferences.

Clinical Trials for SLE

Clinical trials are are the main scientific vehicle for advancing our understanding and treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus. These research studies evaluate new treatments, interventions, or approaches to managing SLE with the goal of improving outcomes for people with the disease. Clinical trials help researchers determine the safety and effectiveness of new therapies, identify potential side effects, and compare new treatments to standard-of-care options. By participating in clinical trials, those with SLE can contribute to the development of better therapies for themselves and others, ultimately helping to improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease.

Role of Centrial.org in SLE Clinical Trials

CenTrial.org is a valuable resource for people with systemic lupus erythematosus who are interested in participating in clinical trials. This online platform serves as a centralized hub for accessing information about ongoing SLE clinical trials and connecting eligible participants with researchers conducting these studies. Centrial uses a sophisticated matching algorithm to pair individuals with SLE to clinical trials based on their health profiles and the trial's specific eligibility criteria. By registering on CenTrial, SLE patients can stay informed about new clinical trial opportunities as well as play an active role in advancing SLE research. Participating in clinical trials through CenTrial enables individuals with SLE the opportunity to access innovative treatments, contribute to scientific knowledge, and potentially benefit from emerging therapies that may improve their quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions About SLE

What are the long-term effects of SLE?

Systemic lupus erythematosus can have various long-term effects, depending on the organs and tissues involved. Some common long-term effects of SLE may include damage to the kidneys (lupus nephritis), heart (heart disease), lungs (pulmonary complications), and skin (scarring). Additionally, individuals with SLE may experience chronic fatigue, joint pain, and an increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases or complications such as osteoporosis.

Can SLE be cured?

At present, there is no cure for systemic lupus erythematosus. However, with proper management and treatment, many individuals with SLE can achieve symptom control and lead fulfilling lives. Treatment typically focuses on controlling inflammation, managing symptoms, and preventing flare-ups and complications. Close monitoring by healthcare providers and adherence to treatment plans are essential for managing SLE effectively.

How does SLE affect pregnancy?

Systemic lupus erythematosus can affect pregnancy in various ways. Some women with SLE may experience complications during pregnancy, such as an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, or preeclampsia. Additionally, SLE activity may fluctuate during pregnancy, with some women experiencing worsening symptoms (flares) while others may have improvement. Women with SLE need to work closely with their healthcare providers to manage their condition before, during, and after pregnancy to optimize outcomes for both mother and baby.

Are there alternative treatments for SLE?

While conventional medications are commonly used to manage systemic lupus erythematosus, some individuals may explore alternative or complementary treatments to help alleviate symptoms or improve overall well-being. Examples of alternative treatments for SLE may include dietary supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, and mind-body techniques such as yoga or meditation.

There has been some anecdotal reports of people eliminating SLE symptoms by conforming to a strick raw vegetable diet, but clinical trials have not verified this approach. People with SLE need to discuss any alternative treatments with their healthcare providers to ensure safety and effectiveness, as some treatments may interact with medications or exacerbate symptoms.

Is SLE hereditary?

While the exact cause of systemic lupus erythematosus is not fully understood, both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role in its development. SLE does tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the disease. However, not everyone with a family history of SLE will develop the condition, and environmental factors such as sunlight exposure, infections, and hormonal changes may also contribute to disease onset.

How can I support a loved one with SLE?

Supporting a loved one with systemic lupus erythematosus involves offering understanding, empathy, and practical assistance. Some ways to support a loved one with SLE may include:
  • Educating yourself about the disease and its management.
  • Providing emotional support and listening without judgment.
  • Assisting with daily tasks or errands during periods of flare-ups or fatigue.
  • Encouraging regular medical check-ups and medication adherence.
  • Being flexible and understanding of their limitations and needs.
  • Offering encouragement and positive reinforcement.
By offering support and understanding, you can help your loved one with SLE navigate the challenges of living with a chronic illness and improve their overall quality of life.

In Summary

Raising awareness about systemic lupus erythematosus is key for improving understanding, early detection, and access to effective treatment options. By increasing awareness about SLE and its impact on individuals and families, we can foster support, empathy, and resources for those affected by the disease. Furthermore, participating in clinical trials is vital for advancing SLE research and developing new treatments that can improve the lives of individuals with the condition.

For those interested in learning more about systemic lupus erythematosus and exploring clinical trial opportunities, you can register with CenTrial.org to receive free notifications about SLE clinical trials near you. CenTrial is a valuable resource for accessing information about ongoing SLE clinical trials and connecting eligible participants with researchers conducting these studies. 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. CenTrial Data Ltd. does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. Treatments and clinical trials mentioned may not be appropriate or available for all trial participants. Outcomes from treatments and clinical trials may vary from person to person. Consult with your doctor as to whether a clinical trial is a suitable option for your condition. Assistance from generative AI tools may have been used in writing this article.
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