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Volume 28, Issue 1, March 2017

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Mediterr J Rheumatol 2017; 28(1): 14-22
Flares in systemic lupus erythematosus: diagnosis, risk factors and preventive strategies
Authors Information

1: Department of Rheumatology, Clinical Immunology and Allergy, University Hospital of Heraklion, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

2: University of Crete Medical School, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Abstract

Despite advances in the treatment, patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) often experience disease exacerbations (flares) of varying severity. Their diagnosis is primarily made on clinical grounds after exclusion of other diseases or disturbances, primarily infections, and can be assisted by the use of validated clinical indices. Serological tests such as serum complement fractions and anti-dsDNA autoantibodies, are helpful in monitoring SLE activity, but they lack high diagnostic accuracy. Flares are more frequent in patients with persistent immunological and clinical activity, and have been described as significant risk factor for development of irreversible end-organ damage. Accordingly, prevention of flares has been recognized as a distinct therapeutic target in SLE and involves adequate control of disease activity, use of hydroxychloroquine, maintaining immunosuppressive or biologic therapy for several years, and avoiding non-compliance issues. The future holds promise for the discovery of biomarkers that will accurately predict or diagnose SLE flares, thus allowing for the implementation of patient-tailored preventive strategies.