Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) occurs predominantly in young women, but also in children. The prevalence of SLE varies widely worldwide, ranging from about 1 in 3500 women (regardless of race) in the UK, to 1 in 1000 women in China, to 1 in 250 African-American women in the USA.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of treatments on joint symptoms (arthralgia/arthritis) and other non-organ-threatening symptoms (such as serositis and fatigue) in people with systemic lupus erythematosus? What are the effects of interventions for cutaneous involvement in people with systemic lupus erythematosus? What are the effects of treatments in people with proliferative lupus nephritis (WHO grades 3–5)? What are the effects of treatments for neuropsychiatric involvement in people with systemic lupus nephritis? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to December 2007 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 11 systematic reviews or RCTs that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acitretin; antipsychotic drugs; chloroquine; combination corticosteroids plus immunosuppressants; corticosteroids; hydroxychloroquine; intravenous immunoglobulin; methotrexate; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); plasmapheresis; and sunblock.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, multi-system, inflammatory connective tissue disorder of unknown cause that can involve joints, kidneys, serous surfaces, skin, and vessel walls. It occurs predominantly in young women, but also in children. The course of SLE is highly variable, involving non-organ-threatening symptoms (such as arthritis, arthralgia, and rashes), organ-threatening symptoms (such as lupus nephritis), and neuropsychiatric disorders (such as seizures and cognitive dysfunction).
The prevalence of SLE varies widely worldwide, ranging from about 1 in 3500 women (regardless of race) in the UK, to 1 in 1000 women in China, to 1 in 250 African-American women in the USA.
There is consensus that NSAIDs and corticosteroids are useful in relieving pain caused by arthralgia/arthritis, and pleuritis and pericarditis associated with SLE. We found no evidence that the well-documented adverse effects of NSAIDs differ in people with SLE.
There is also consensus that corticosteroids and sunscreens are effective in reducing cutaneous manifestations of SLE.
Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine are likely to be effective in reducing arthritis, pleuritis, and pericarditis. They may also improve cutaneous symptoms.
Methotrexate may also be effective for both joint and cutaneous symptoms, but is associated with adverse effects.
Combining immunosuppressants plus corticosteroids may be more effective than corticosteroids alone in people with lupus nephritis, but with an increase in adverse effects.
We don't know how corticosteroids alone compare with immunosuppressants alone in people with proliferative lupus nephritis.
We don't know whether corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, plasmapheresis, or intravenous immunoglobulin are effective in people with neuropsychiatric symptoms of lupus.
Most people with neuropsychiatric lupus and psychotic symptoms will be offered antipsychotic drugs to control symptoms unless there are contraindications, despite the lack of RCTs assessing their effectiveness.