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Lupus is an autoimmune inflammatory condition in which your body’s defense system attacks parts of your own body. Lupus may involve only the skin (discoid lupus) or many other parts of the body (systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE) such as the heart, lungs, blood and joints. Systemic lupus erythematosus of the brain and spinal cord produce neurological symptoms ranging from disordered thought processes and memory problems (called lupus fog) to coma and stroke. Other symptoms include headache, seizures, meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the spinal cord and brain), myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), visual problems and movement disorders.

Causes of Lupus

Lupus may be caused by the release of antibodies to the brain and spinal cord, inflammation of the blood vessels reducing blood supply to the brain, and blood clot formation.

Diagnosis of Lupus

Diagnosing your neurological symptoms as being caused by lupus is difficult and requires many tests. Your physician studies your symptoms in detail and looks for evidence of lupus in other parts of your body. Blood and urine tests may be performed including antinuclear antibody testing to identify an increase in the presence of certain antibodies diagnostic of lupus. Your doctor may order imaging tests (MRI or CT scan) and perform a lumbar puncture (obtaining fluid surrounding your spine) to look for signs of central nervous system inflammation.

Treatment of Lupus

Treatment for lupus of the brain and spinal cord is symptomatic. Your doctor may prescribe anti-seizure and anti-migraine medication, steroids, anticoagulants (that reduce clot formation) and immunosuppressants.