Childhood systemic lupus erythematosus (Childhood SLE) is an autoimmune condition that results in the swelling of skin, lungs, kidneys, nervous system, or other organs. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, mistaking it for unwanted invaders. Common symptoms of this condition include fever, fatigue, weight loss, hair loss, rashes on the face or upper body, sores on the mouth or nose, bruising, painful joints, seizures, and symptoms of anxiety or depression. There are periods when childhood SLE is very active (lots of symptoms), called flare, and periods when it is not (few if any symptoms), called remission.
Lupus is more common in females from African-American, Hispanic, South/Southeast Asian, or Native American ethnicities. At the younger ages however, it is more common than later ages for boys to be diagnosed with SLE. About 20% of cases of SLE are diagnosed in individuals under 20 years old. Few however are diagnosed under 5.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown. Genetic errors or environmental factors such as drug reactions, sun exposure, hormones during puberty may trigger childhood SLE. This condition is diagnosed if at least four physical symptoms are present. A detailed medical history, a physical examination, and blood tests may also be used to diagnose this condition. Although there is no cure for SLE, there are treatment options available to help manage the condition. There are medications available to help control swelling of the organs. Counseling may also be recommended. Talk with your child’s pediatrician and pediatric rheumatologist about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also good resources for support and information.