Autoimmune Disease Affecting Organs, Skin and Joints

Juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) - also known as lupus – is an autoimmune disease that may cause inflammation in your child’s organs, skin and joints. This inflammation can damage the affected area, including the kidneys, heart, lungs and brain.

SLE is chronic, meaning that your child’s lupus may go from periods of more severe to less severe and back to more severe with age. Approximately 20% of people with lupus will develop it as children and it is more common in females than males.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Lupus can affect each child differently and at different points in their lives. The most common pediatric lupus symptoms include:

  • “Butterfly” skin rash over cheeks and bridge of the nose
  • Chest pain with a deep breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • General discomfort and feeling unwell
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss

Additional symptoms can affect other areas of the body:

  • Brain and nervous system
    • Difficulty with concentration
    • Headaches
    • Numbness
    • Personality changes
    • Seizures
    • Tingling
    • Vision problems
  • Heart
    • Inflammation of heart muscle
    • Valve problems
  • Lung
    • Buildup of fluid in the pleural space
    • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin
    • Fingers that change color when cold (Raynaud’s syndrome or phenomenon)
    • Patchy skin color

To diagnose your child with lupus, our team of pediatric rheumatologic experts will examine your child and take a full medical and family history. Our team will also order bloodwork to determine the source of your child’s symptoms. Diagnostic tests that could indicate lupus include:

  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA)
  • Complete blood count (CBC) with differential
  • Chest X-ray
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate)
  • Serum creatinine
  • Urinalysis

With ongoing medical management, our team at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital is committed to helping your child achieve a healthy, active lifestyle.

Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Specialized Rheumatology Care Close to Home

The Penn State Health Children’s Hospital rheumatology team sees more than 5,000 pediatric patients each year to diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases and musculoskeletal disorders. We are proud to offer specialized pediatric rheumatology care to our patients and their families at multiple convenient locations. We know your child’s health is your top priority. At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we are committed to helping your child receive exceptional care close to home.

Customized, Compassionate Lupus Treatment  

There is no cure for lupus, but the Penn State Health Children’s Hospital rheumatology team will work closely with your child to determine the best course of treatment. Many patients with lupus experience symptom management with a combination of medicine, which could include:

  • Corticosteroids: control inflammation
  • Hydroxychloroquine: helps ease and prevent lupus symptoms
  • Immunosuppressive medications: suppress your child’s immune system to help control lupus
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): include prescription or over-the-counter medications, like Aleve and Advil, to reduce joint swelling and pain

Additional recommendations for pediatric lupus patients include always wearing sunscreen, avoiding sun exposure during peak sun hours, getting eight to10 hours of sleep each night and eating a well-balanced diet.

Commitment to Research

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital frequently participates in clinical trials to research tomorrow’s tests, treatments and cures for pediatric autoimmune disorders and musculoskeletal disorders. The division of pediatric rheumatology participates in national research efforts including Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA).For more information on clinical trials at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, please visit StudyFinder.

Telehealth Pediatric Rheumatology

In addition to our convenient locations, our pediatric rheumatology team at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital is also willing and able to provide telehealth services when appropriate.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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