Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of lupus, is a chronic, inflammatory, multisystem, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own healthy tissue causing inflammation and damage to tissue in the affected organs. Lupus can affect many parts of the body including the skin (discoid lupus), kidneys (lupus nephritis), lungs, heart, and brain. The disease is characterized by periods of flare and remission and can culminate in irreversible end-organ damage.
While an early diagnosis improves the quality of life and outcomes of a person living with lupus, receiving a lupus diagnosis can be a difficult and timely process. Lupus is sometimes called the “great imitator,” because its early signs and symptoms can look like those of other diseases. Therefore, it is vital for healthcare providers to know how to recognize, refer, diagnosis, and/or treat clinical manifestations of lupus. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the disease is now more manageable than in years past, allowing people affected by lupus to live full, productive lives.