Donate to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Research, Patient Care and Education

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (known as lupus or SLE) is characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons other connective tissues and organs. Among the affected organs are the skin, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys and the heart. Lupus affects each individual differently and the effects of the disease range from mild to severe. The disorder is known to have periods of flare-ups and periods of remission (partial or complete lack of symptoms).

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. Ninety percent of people with lupus are female and most first develop symptoms between the ages of 15 to 44. African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans have an increased risk of developing lupus.

Although improvements in the care and understanding of lupus have made it less fatal, it remains a dangerous disease for minorities, as a consequence of hereditary factors. Each contribution to Northwestern Memorial Foundation aids in our efforts to find a cure and eradicate lupus, once and for all.

Northwestern Medicine is one of eight centers in the United States funded by a Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Centers P60 grant by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The multidisciplinary team of the arthritis center treats and investigates arthritic, rheumatic and autoimmune diseases. The team works together with dermatology specialists in areas such as psoriasis, lupus and different ailments that have significant skin manifestations.

The Rheumatology staff and colleagues in Physical Rehabilitation Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery consult to provide the finest possible care for patients with lupus. Northwestern Medicine provides expertise in diagnosing and treating:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • The management of rheumatic diseases during pregnancy
  • Bursitis
  • Gout and other crystal-induced arthropathies
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Tendonitis
  • Vasculitis

The Northwestern Medicine staff works closely with specialists in areas like lupus, psoriasis and many different ailments that have significant skin manifestations. Current initiatives of the Division of Rheumatology comprise:

  • A highly aggressive, nationally renowned coaching program for rheumatology fellows
  • An active translational research program connecting laboratory research with patient attention
  • Close collaborations with pharmaceutical firms and another research sponsor to develop more effective therapies

The Division of Rheumatology at Northwestern Medicine deals mostly with the identification and treatment of arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Its mission is the prevention, cure and relief of suffering from arthritis and rheumatic ailments, providing patient-centered care directed by evidence.

Lupus symptoms are usually chronic, although they may occasionally flare up or go into remission. Also, the type and the severity of symptoms experienced will vary, the most frequent symptoms of lupus include:

  • Malar rash, a rash shaped like a butterfly, usually located on the bridge of the nose and the lips
  • Discoid rash, and a raised rash on the head, arms, chest or back
  • Fever
  • Joint Inflammation
  • Painful joints
  • Sunlight sensitivity
  • Baldness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fluid around the lungs, heart or other organs
  • Kidney troubles
  • Low white blood cell or low platelet count
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, blood vessels of the fingers and toes go into spasm when triggered by factors such as cold, stress or illness
  • Weight loss
  • Nerve or brain malfunction
  • Anemia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Low energy
  • Swollen glands

Lupus may be hard to diagnose because it mimics other medical conditions. It is regarded as a multifactorial condition, so the condition is caused by a number of variables that are unique to this disease. Environmental and genetic may trigger this disease. In lupus, hormones might also bring about the onset of the disease.

Lupus is difficult to diagnose because there is not any test for the disease and the symptoms vary and are often obscure. A diagnosis is usually confirmed based on reported symptoms, a complete medical history, and a physical examination that may include:

  • Blood tests (detect certain antibodies)
  • Urine tests (evaluate kidney function)
  • Complement evaluation (measures low levels of complement, a group of proteins in the blood that help destroy foreign materials)
  • X-rays: a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs. When swelling and inflammation are present, the blood’s proteins clump together and become heavier than normal which means when measured, they fall and settle faster at the bottom of the test tube. Generally, the faster the blood cells fall, the more severe the inflammation.
  • C-reactive protein (CRP): This is a protein that’s elevated when inflammation is found in the body. Although ESR and CRP reflect similar degrees of inflammation, sometimes one will be elevated when the other is not.

While there is no cure for lupus, Northwestern Medicine specialists help patients find relief in the symptoms. A patient’s treatment plan will likely be based on:

  • Age, general health and medical history
  • The extent of the condition
  • Tolerance for specific medications, procedures and therapies
  • The expectation for the course of this disease
  • The specific organs that are influenced

If symptoms are mild, treatment may not be required, aside from the potential use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for joint pain. Treatment may include:

  • Hydroxychloroquine, quinacrine, chloroquine or some mixture of those medications
  • Corticosteroids to control inflammation
  • Immunosuppressive medication to curb the body’s overactive gastrointestinal system
  • Monoclonal antibodies for selected patients, based on disease activity and also the results of certain blood tests
  • The liberal use of sunscreen decreased time outdoors and wearing hats and long sleeves
  • Rest at least eight to ten hours of sleep at night and naps during the day
  • Stress reduction
  • Well-balanced diet
  • Immediate treatment of infections

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Research, Patient Care and Education Donation

Both patients and physician-scientists at Northwestern Medicine will benefit greatly from your contribution that will advance important research efforts in treating and diagnosing lupus.

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