The website Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, has a great deal of information on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE, which we have attached below.
If SLE is causing a disability, a person claiming long-term disability benefits needs to see a specialist who can administer all relevant testing. Rheumatologists are the appropriate specialists to diagnose and treat lupus. If a claimant suffering from SLE has not treated with a rheumatologist, it will be difficult for them to prove that they qualify for long-term disability benefits. Regular treatment is necessary to control symptoms, although there is not a known cure at this time. A claimant of long-term disability benefits must maintain regular treatment, or they may not be able to show the severity of their symptoms.
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MEDLINE PLUS INFORMATION ON SLE:
Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus vary from person to person, and may come and go. Almost everyone with SLE has joint pain and swelling. Some develop arthritis. The joints of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees are often affected.
Other common symptoms include:
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath
- Fever with no other cause
- General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Skin rash — a “butterfly” rash in about half people with SLE. The rash is most often seen over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, but can be widespread. It gets worse in sunlight.
- Swollen lymph nodes
Other symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected:
- Brain and nervous system: headaches, numbness, tingling, seizures, vision problems, personality changes
- Digestive tract: abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
- Heart: abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- Lung: coughing up blood and difficulty breathing
- Skin: patchy skin color, fingers that change color when cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Kidney: swelling in the legs, weight gain
Some people have only skin symptoms. This is called discoid lupus.
Exams and Tests
To be diagnosed with lupus, you must have 4 out of 11 common signs of the disease.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and listen to your chest. An abnormal sound called a heart friction rub or pleural friction rub may be heard. A nervous system exam will also be done.
Tests used to diagnose SLE may include:
You may also have other tests to learn more about your condition. Some of these are:
- Antithyroglobulin antibody
- Antithyroid microsomal antibody
- Complement components (C3 and C4)
- Coombs’ test – direct
- Kidney function blood tests
- Liver function blood tests
- Rheumatoid factor
- Antiphospholipid antibodies
There is no cure for SLE. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms. Severe symptoms that involve the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs often need treatment from specialists.