Systemic lupus erythematosus (also called SLE or lupus) is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other organs of the body.
It usually appears between the ages of 20 and 40, and is approximately 10 times more common in women than men; it occurs more frequently in blacks and Asians than in other groups.
The most common symptoms of lupus include skin rashes and arthritis, which are often accompanied by fatigue and fever.
The disease course, which can range from very mild to quite severe, often includes alternating periods of relapse and remission.
The most common symptoms of neurological involvement from lupus are migraine headaches, changes in personality and cognitive function, epileptic seizures, and occasionally stroke — which are not typical manifestations of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Occasionally patients with lupus develop transverse myelitis or optic neuritis; these may indicate the presence of a condition that is similar to but distinct from MS, called neuromyelitis optica (NMO), that requires different treatment.
For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of lupus, consult The Arthritis Foundation, the Lupus Foundation of America, the Lupus Research Institute or the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse.