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Drugs. 1997 Sep;54(3):422-34.

Recognition and management of systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Rheumatology, Christian Albrecht University of Kiel, Germany.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an inflammatory systemic disease that causes organ damage by the deposition of autoantibodies and complement activating immune complexes or by vascular occlusion due to procoagulant states associated with antiphospholipid antibodies. The vast majority of cases occur in women of childbearing age. SLE is diagnosed on the basis of its clinical manifestations and the demonstration of characteristic immunological phenomena, especially anti-nuclear antibodies. The prognosis in SLE has shown a distinct improvement over recent decades, the 5-year survival rate now approaching or exceeding 90%. The 15-year survival rate of 63 to 79%, on the other hand, underscores the need for further advances in diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Management of the disease includes regular monitoring of disease activity, avoidance of predisposing factors and close supervision of therapy. Drug therapy is guided by the activity and severity of the leading organ manifestations and ranges from nonsteroidal antirheumatic drugs to intensive treatment with cytotoxic agents. Corticosteroids remain irreplaceable for the control of acute flares. Antimalarials and azathioprine are important long term drugs for treating mild or moderate disease activity. Intravenous pulse cyclophosphamide is safer than other regimens and at least as effective as oral cyclophosphamide for severe lupus nephritis. It is also effective in the treatment of central nervous disease and of other organ-threatening manifestations. Recently, an intensified protocol which included cyclophosphamide induced long term treatment-free remission in 60% of patients. The toxicity of cyclophosphamide is considerable, but can be ameliorated by various measures. The value of several new immunosuppressants and other compounds remains to be determined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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