Libman-Sacks endocarditis is the most characteristic cardiac manifestation of lupus. It is characterized by clusters of verrucae on the ventricular surface of the mitral valve. These lesions consist of accumulation of immune complexes, platelets, and mononuclear cells. This can lead to heart failure, valvular dysfunction, emboli, and secondary infective endocarditis. Diagnosis is best made via echocardiography, which may reveal the characteristic valvular masses (arrows). IVS = interventricular septum; LA = left atrium; LV = left ventricle.
SLE-associated skin manifestations can sometimes lead to scarring. In discoid lupus, only the skin is typically involved. The skin rash in discoid lupus often is found on the face and scalp. It usually is red and may have raised borders. Discoid lupus rashes are usually painless and do not itch, but scarring can cause permanent hair loss (alopecia). Over time, 5%-10% of those with discoid lupus may develop SLE.
The most serious health risks are cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and stroke. Specifically, people with lupus are at increased risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). In some people, inflammation can occur in the heart itself (myocarditis and endocarditis) or the membrane that surrounds it. Endocarditis can damage heart valves, which can result in heart murmurs. When the disease affects the kidneys, patients generally require intensive drug treatment to prevent permanent damage. Lupus also may attack the brain or central nervous system, which can cause seizures or stroke.
At Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI), research programs study the cells which regulate lupus to further understand disease pathogenesis - or the development of the disease – translating these findings into therapeutic targets. In addition, clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate novel therapies in this disease. BRI has a Clinical Research Registry people can join to learn about clinical trials that may be appropriate for them.
If cyclophosphamide doesn’t work for patients with lupus nephritis, they now have the option of trying another drug, and more options are being tested in clinical trials, says Dr. Caricchio. For example, doctors may use CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil), Imuran (azathioprine), or Restasis (cyclosporine). Prograf (tacrolimus) may also be an effective option for lupus nephritis, according to study data appearing in the January 2016 edition of Autoimmunity Reviews. (5)
Patients with class III or IV disease, as well as those with a combination of class V and class III or IV disease, generally undergo aggressive therapy with glucocorticoid drugs and immunosuppressants.  Immunosuppressive therapy consists of induction and maintenance therapy. Induction therapy involves potent immunosuppressive drugs (eg, mycophenolate mofetil, cyclophosphamide) to achieve remission; these drugs are generally used for 3 months to 1 year, with an average of 6 months’ treatment having been shown to be more efficacious and safer than long-term therapy. 
More serious organ involvement with inflammation occurs in the brain, liver, and kidneys. White blood cells can be decreased in SLE (referred to as leukopenia or leucopenia). Also, low blood-clotting factors called platelets (thrombocytopenia) can be caused by lupus. Leukopenia can increase the risk of infection, and thrombocytopenia can increase the risk of bleeding. Low red blood cell counts (hemolytic anemia) can occur.
Corticosteroids. Prednisone and other types of corticosteroids can counter the inflammation of lupus. High doses of steroids such as methylprednisolone (A-Methapred, Medrol) are often used to control serious disease that involves the kidneys and brain. Side effects include weight gain, easy bruising, thinning bones (osteoporosis), high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection. The risk of side effects increases with higher doses and longer term therapy.
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