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Feature Article

An overview of systemic lupus erythematosus

Sean O’Neill, Leslie Schrieber

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Abstract

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a multisystem disease with manifestations ranging from trivial to life threatening. Managing the late manifestations such as premature cardiovascular disease and minimising the adverse effects of treatment have become a growing challenge.

Key Points

  • The diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can be simple, but at times the disorder can masquerade as other conditions such as infection or malignancy.
  • A positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is not diagnostic alone for SLE; it is one of the 11 criteria, four of which are required for a definite diagnosis.
  • It is important that care is shared between GPs and appropriate specialists because SLE is uncommon and has a very variable clinical expression. Patient education and support are important in achieving the best long-term outcome.
  • Management of SLE must be tailored to the individual patient, reserving immunosuppression for those with life-threatening organ involvement.
  • As survival of patients with SLE has improved, managing the late manifestations of the disease such as premature cardiovascular disease and minimising the adverse effects of treatment has become a growing challenge.

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