Neurologic manifestations of SLE are common and vary from mild to severe. They can be difficult to diagnose and distinguish from other diseases. All portions of the nervous system may be affected, including the CNS. Definite diagnosis of CNS Lupus may be difficult, as symptoms may be related to medications, other medical conditions, or to individual reactions to chronic illness.
Cranial or peripheral neuropathy occurs in 10-15 percent of people; it is probably secondary to vasculitis in small arteries supplying nerves. Cerebrovascular accidents (strokes) are reported in approximately 15 percent of people. Between 10 and 20 percent of people experience seizures. Although cognitive impairment is believed to be very common, there are few measurements to document it.
Serious CNS involvement ranks behind only kidney disease and infection as a leading cause of death in Lupus. However, the majority of SLE people with CNS complications do not develop a life-threatening disease.