Patients of African-American or African descent did not show significant responses to belimumab in phase III post-hoc analysis, but those studies were not powered to assess for this effect; in a phase II trial, blacks had a greater treatment response. These results indicate that the benefits of belimumab in SLE patients remain inconclusive and that further investigation is needed. Patients with severe active lupus nephritis or CNS lupus or patients previously treated with other biologics or cyclophosphamide have been excluded from participation in early trials.
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Neuropsychiatric syndromes can result when SLE affects the central or peripheral nervous system. The American College of Rheumatology defines 19 neuropsychiatric syndromes in systemic lupus erythematosus. The diagnosis of neuropsychiatric syndromes concurrent with SLE (now termed as NPSLE), is one of the most difficult challenges in medicine, because it can involve so many different patterns of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for signs of infectious disease or stroke.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate: This is a blood test that is used to determine the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube in one hour’s time. If the rate is faster than normal, it may be an indication of a systemic disease, like lupus. It is important to note that this sedimentation rate, or rate of settling, does not specifically indicate lupus, but can be elevated if other inflammatory conditions are present like cancer or an infection.
Synovitis is an inflammation of the joint lining, called synovium. The symptoms are often of short duration and may change location although when caused by overuse tend to remain in one joint. The pain is usually more severe than expected based on the appearance of the joint on examination. In fact, sometimes there is pain without swelling or even tenderness in the joint, in which case the symptom is called “arthralgias” (literally meaning “joint pain” in Greek). Although synovitis has many different causes, the most common cause in an active healthy person is overuse.
Sometimes changes in blood counts may contribute to symptoms of fatigue (low red blood cell count, anemia), serious infections (low white blood cell count), or easy bruising (low platelet count). However, many patients do not have symptoms that indicate blood abnormalities, so it is important for lupus patients to have periodic blood tests in order to detect any problems.
Everett adds that eating fish for protein is particularly good. Fish — especially salmon, tuna, and mackerel — contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important because they help fight inflammation, she says. Omega-3s, which are also available as supplements, may decrease your risk for heart disease. This may be especially important for women with lupus because they have at least double the risk of heart disease compared with women who don't have lupus, according to a review of studies published in August 2013 in Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. “Lupus is an independent risk factor for heart disease, so you should maintain a heart-healthy diet that helps fight inflammation and keeps you at a healthy weight," Everett says.
SLE may cause pericarditis—inflammation of the outer lining surrounding the heart, myocarditis—inflammation of the heart muscle, or endocarditis—inflammation of the inner lining of the heart. The endocarditis of SLE is non-infectious, and is also called (Libman–Sacks endocarditis). It involves either the mitral valve or the tricuspid valve. Atherosclerosis also occurs more often and advances more rapidly than in the general population.
Prognosis is typically worse for men and children than for women; however, if symptoms are present after age 60, the disease tends to run a more benign course. Early mortality, within 5 years, is due to organ failure or overwhelming infections, both of which can be altered by early diagnosis and treatment. The mortality risk is fivefold when compared to the normal population in the late stages, which can be attributed to cardiovascular disease from accelerated atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death for people with SLE. To reduce the potential for cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure and high cholesterol should be prevented or treated aggressively. Steroids should be used at the lowest dose for the shortest possible period, and other drugs that can reduce symptoms should be used whenever possible.
Inflammation of the kidneys caused by an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus. The condition can cause hematuria and proteinuria, and it may progress to end-stage renal disease. The most severe form of lupus nephritis, called diffuse proliferative nephritis, can cause scars to form in the kidneys. Scars are permanent, and kidney function often declines as more scars form. Early diagnosis and treatment may help prevent long-lasting damage.
Most patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (unless they’re otherwise advised by their rheumatologist) should be taking an oral antimalarial drug — medications originally used to prevent a malaria infection, but that have been found to help with lupus symptoms, says Dr. Kramer. The antimalarial hydroxychloroquine helps prevent lupus flares, minimizes joint inflammation, and controls fever, fatigue, pleurisy (inflammation of the sac surrounding the lungs), and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). The drug is also “the backbone of therapy” for most skin rashes associated with lupus, says Kramer. Mouth sores may also be alleviated with this drug. Chloroquine and quinacrine are other antimalarials drugs used to treat lupus. (3)
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