Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune condition, which means it's caused by problems with the immune system.
The immune system is the body's natural defence against illness and infection. When the immune system detects the presence of an infectious agent, such as bacteria or a virus, it sends white blood cells and antibodies to attack it.
In cases of SLE, antibodies released by the immune system can attack healthy tissue, cells and organs.
It's not clear exactly why this happens, although most experts think SLE has more than one cause.
It's been suggested there may be a number of genetic factors that make people more susceptible to the condition, and that it also takes one or more environmental factors to trigger SLE in those who are susceptible.
Brothers and sisters of people with SLE are much more likely to develop the condition than the population at large.
Researchers have identified a number of different genetic mutations that seem to make people more susceptible to developing SLE. A genetic mutationis a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene.The DNA in a gene spells out specific instructions for making a protein,so when these instructions are altered, the body's processes do not work normally.
Most faulty genes are associated with regulating certain functions of the immune system, which may explain why the immune system in people with SLE starts to malfunction.
A number of environmental factors may be responsible for triggering SLE in vulnerable individuals, although the evidence for many of these is limited.
Possible environmental factors that have been suggested include:
Read about lupus, a complex and poorly understood condition that affects many parts of the body. It causes symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening
Read about the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which can vary widely from person to person. Some people may only experience a few mild symptoms
Read about the causes of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is an autoimmune condition, which means it's caused by problems with the immune system
Read about diagnosing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which can be difficult as it has similar symptoms to several other conditions
Read about treating systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There's currently no cure for SLE but treatments that can ease the symptoms and make it easier to live with are available
Read about complications of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). If SLE is mild or well-controlled, you may find it barely affects your day-to-day life