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Lupus, or properly, systemic lupus erythematosus is an immune system disease of unknown cause in which the patient's immune system reacts against the tissues of the body as if they were foreign, producing antibodies that attack various target tissues. These include the nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys. The cause is not known. The onset of the disease may be slow and initially difficult to diagnose with certainty, or very rapid and progressive.
The most common symptoms in childhood lupus are fever, joint pains or joint inflammation, fatigue, rashes, weight loss, and lymph node swelling. Kidney inflammation may produce elevated blood pressure, blood in the urine (hematuria), protein loss (nephrotic syndrome), or kidney failure. Inflammation of the heart may produce pericarditis. Nervous system symptoms are wide-ranging from seizures to psychosis, strokes, inflammatory (non-infectious) meningitis and mood disturbances, to name a few. Forms of anemia are common, as well as other disturbances of platelets or white cells. Rashes are frequent and often characteristic. The malar or butterfly rash involving the skin over the cheekbones and nasal bridge is very characteristic of lupus. Rashes may be induced by light over exposed areas (see polymorphous light eruption, PMLE.
Treatment is generally aimed at suppressing the autoimmune response. Lupus is a very serious disease with a guarded prognosis.