Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – lupus – is a long-term condition causing inflammation to the joints, skin and other organs. There’s no cure, but symptoms can improve if treatment starts early.

See a GP if you often get:

  • joint pain and stiffness
  • extreme tiredness that won’t go away no matter how much you rest
  • skin rashes – often over the nose and cheeks

As well as the 3 main symptoms, you might also have:

  • weight loss
  • swollen glands
  • sensitivity to light (causing rashes on uncovered skin)
  • poor circulation in fingers and toes (Raynaud’s)

Treatment for lupus

Lupus is generally treated using:

  • anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen
  • hydroxychloroquine for fatigue and skin and joint problems
  • steroid tablets, injections and creams for kidney inflammation and rashes

Two newer medicines (rituximab and belimumab) are sometimes used to treat severe lupus. These work on the immune system to reduce the number of antibodies in the blood.

Arthritis Research UK has more information on the treatments for lupus.

Living with lupus – things you can do yourself

Although medicines are important in controlling lupus, you can help manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of it getting worse.

Causes of lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means the body’s natural defence system (immune system) attacks healthy tissues.

It isn’t contagious.

It’s not fully understood what causes lupus. A viral infection, strong medication, sunlight, puberty, childbirth and the menopause can all trigger the condition.

More women than men get lupus, and it’s more common in black and Asian women.

Pregnancy and lupus

Lupus can cause complications in pregnancy.

See your doctor before trying to get pregnant to discuss the risks and so your medication can be changed if necessary.