Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE for short, is a rare chronic inflammatory disease which often results in serious illness. It tends to affect women more than men.

SLE is triggered when the immune system overreacts and mistakenly attacks the body itself, which can lead to organ damage and inflammation. As the antibodies mistakenly produced by the immune system can spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, it can affect all organ systems and cells in the body. However, it frequently affects the skin, kidneys, nervous system and joints. It can also destroy cells in the hematopoietic system.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an inflammatory rheumatic disease which affects the body’s connective tissues.

The causes of the disease are not yet fully understood. It is suspected that it is caused by a persistent immune system disorder which can be influenced by a variety of factors. These include environmental factors, hormonal changes, genetic factors, infections, stress, UV light or medication.



Unfortunately, SEL can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms in the early phases of the disease are similar to those of other conditions. One of the first symptoms is often a butterfly-shaped rash on the patient’s cheeks and over the bridge of the nose. Other symptoms include:

- Rheumatic complaints
- Fatigue
- Sensitivity to sunlight
- Decline in performance
- Weight loss
- Fever
- Swollen lymph glands
- Inflammation leading to an enlarged liver
- Inflammation of pericardium (pericarditis)
- Inflammation of pleura (pleuritis)


At the DZI, we benefit from the expertise of specialists from the various different hospital departments at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. When deciding on the best possible course of treatment, we consult rheumatologists, dermatologists, nephrologists, neurologists and a number of other specialists depending on the case in hand. This interdisciplinary approach allows us to offer patients comprehensive care and cater to their needs from their initial consultation, during treatment, and in subsequent follow-up appointments.

A further focus of our work is research into the causes of the disease, using modern molecular biological and immunological methods. Thanks to modern medical research, advances have been made to improve established therapies and new methods have been developed for treating systemic lupus erythematosus. Ongoing clinical studies translate the latest research results into treatments.

Depending on the form and progress of the disease, we offer patients access to cutting-edge, modern immunotherapy. The treatment focuses on curbing the excessive reaction of the immune system and reducing inflammation as a result.

Treatments include immunosuppressive agents such as ciclosporin, azathioprine and cyclophosphamide which reduce the activity of the overactive immune system in people suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus. Another option is to use monoclonal antibodies such as belimumab. These inhibit essential growth factors for the autoreactive B-cells in the immune system, thereby limiting the abnormal immune reaction, lowering inflammation and leading to a considerable improvement of symptoms in the patient.

Ultimately, the decision as to which treatment is considered most promising in any individual case is taken in consultation with specialists from the various disciplines.

Do you have any questions about treatment for systemic lupus erythematosus? Please feel free to get in touch with us by phone, e-mail or via our contact form.