Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune illness that causes a characteristic butterfly-shaped
rash on the face accompanied by inflammation of connective tissue, particularly joints, throughout the body.
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks the body
instead of protecting it. Kidney, lung, and vascular damage are potential problems resulting from SLE.
The cause of SLE is unknown, though 90% of cases occur in women of childbearing age. Several drugs, such
as procainamide, hydralazine,
methyldopa, and chlorpromazine, may create SLE-like symptoms. Environmental pollution and industrial
emissions were associated with an increased risk of SLE in one study.1 In one reported case, zinc supplementation appears to have aggravated drug-induced SLE.2 Ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure is a commonly recognized trigger of the skin
manifestations of lupus.3 Some environmental chemicals such as hydrazine4 and food dyes such as tartrazine5 may be
environmental triggers of SLE in susceptible people.
Risk factors include a family history of SLE, other collagen diseases or
asthma,6 menstrual irregularity,7 beginning
menstruation at age 15 or later,8 exposure to toxic
chemicals,9 and low blood levels of antioxidant nutrients,
such as vitamin A and vitamin E, or
beta-carotene.10 Free radicals are
thought to promote SLE.11
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is a milder form of lupus that affects the skin. Like SLE, it's
not known what causes DLE, though sun exposure may trigger the first outbreak. DLE is most common among women
in their thirties.