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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

What is red wolf or
butterfly disease?

Systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE for short, also known as "red wolf" or "butterfly disease", is an autoimmune disease that can affect the whole body. An interaction of genetic predisposition and environmental influences (e.g. sun exposure) trigger severe inflammatory reactions in the skin, joints and internal organs. An uncontrolled production of autoantibodies is typical, which are directed against the patient's own genetic material (DNA) and lead to inflammation of the tissue.

How does the disease manifest itself?
A butterfly-shaped rash on the face, joint pain and swelling, hair loss, hypersensitivity to sunlight, dry mouth and eyes, and fever are part of the collection of symptoms of SLE. The signs are many and vary from patient to patient. Frequently, episodes of the disease are accompanied by fever, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and the disease often affects the kidneys, heart and lungs.



How is it diagnosed?
In addition to the clinical examination, special blood analyses, such as the detection of anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), are important for the clarification of the disease. In order to detect all organ involvement, examinations of the urine as well as imaging procedures such as X-rays, computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are essential.

What can be done about it?
The earlier the disease is specifically treated, the better it can be controlled and contained. While acute attacks are treated with glucocorticoids, immunomodulators such as hydroxychloroquine now play a central role in treatment. In more severe courses, immunosuppressive drugs such as mycophenolate or biologics, such as belimumab, are used, which specifically inhibit immune cells. If all treatment options fail, CAR-T cell therapy can cure the disease. This therapy was successfully used for the first time in SLE in spring 2021.

Tips for everyday life
Eat a balanced diet, avoid intensive sunbathing, abstain from alcohol and nicotine, and exercise regularly.

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