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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multisystemic chronic inflammatory disease that affects patients in many different ways over a varying course of time. The disease is typically characterized by periods of remission and relapse, although the causes of exacerbation remain uncertain. SLE, like most autoimmune diseases, has a clear predilection for women. Indeed, women are affected seven times more frequently than men. The disorder may be diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50 years, although it is most often detected in women in their twenties. Therefore, SLE is the most commonly encountered autoimmune disease in pregnancy. Although no specific gene mutation for SLE has been identified, the disease likely has a genetic component.1 Approximately 10% of affected patients have a relative with SLE and monozygotic twin studies demonstrate that 50% of affected twins are concordant for the disease. It is estimated that about 2% of children born to mothers with SLE will develop the disease themselves.2 The symptoms of SLE are extremely heterogeneous which can make the diagnosis difficult. The disease may affect joints, skin, kidneys, lung, nervous system, and other organs. The most common presenting complaints are extreme fatigue, arthralgias, fever, and rash (Table 27-1).

TABLE 27-1Frequency of Clinical Symptoms in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

In 1982, the American Rheumatism Association (ARA) revised previously set criteria for the diagnosis of SLE3 (Table 27-2). According to the ARA, a person must have had at least 4 of the 11 specific criteria in order to carry the diagnosis of SLE. However, many patients have less than four clinical or laboratory features of SLE and do not meet strict diagnostic criteria. These patients should not be considered to have SLE, but are often referred to as having lupus-like disease. Such individuals may benefit from therapies for SLE and some will ultimately develop the clinical syndrome.

TABLE 27-2American Rheumatic Association Criteria for the Diagnosis and Classification of SLE


The Effect of Pregnancy on SLE


Typically, patients with SLE do ...

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