Lupus is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in different parts of the body. However, it is mostly observed as a localized condition and thus is not always systemic. Because it is an autoimmune disease, it is caused by the immune system launching attack on body cells by mistaking them for foreign cells. The immune system response leads to inflammation.
In most cases, people experience a mild version of lupus but in cases where they do not take proper treatment for longer periods, the symptoms begin to worsen. As of now, there is no cure for lupus and the existing treatments focus on improving its symptoms. It is a non-contagious disease.
What Are The Different Types Of Lupus?
Lupus is generally categorized into four.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common lupus type. Most of the lupus patients would be affected by SLE. The disease affects different organ systems in our body and this is how SLE got its name.
The organ systems affected by SLE include:
- Nervous system
Inflammation of the kidneys is particularly referred to as lupus nephritis. It affects the ability of the kidneys to filter waste out of our body. There are chances for serious damage that in some cases, dialysis or kidney transplant would be needed.
Inflammation of the nervous system due to lupus can cause headaches, confusion, memory problems, and strokes. High fever, behavioral changes, and seizures might result from inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain.
The severity of lupus symptoms will not be the same at all times. The times when the symptoms worsen are called flares while the times when the symptoms go away are called remissions.
About two-thirds of people with lupus develop some skin diseases as well. This type of lupus with skin diseases as major symptoms is called cutaneous lupus erythematosus. Rashes and lesions are common in people with cutaneous lupus. They usually occur on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun (for example face, ears, legs, and arms). 40-70 percent of lupus patients have reported that their symptoms worsened on exposure to UV light.
In order to determine whether a lesion or rash is a sign of cutaneous lupus, a dermatologist examines the tissue sample under a microscope.
Cutaneous lupus has three forms:
Chronic Cutaneous Lupus
Chronic cutaneous lupus also is known as discoid lupus appears as round disk-shaped lesions that commonly appear on the scalp or face. The sores may also develop in other parts of the body. The lesions in discoid lupus patients are usually red, thick, and scaly.
Subacute Cutaneous Lupus
It appears as red, ring-shaped lesions that usually appear on sun-exposed areas of the neck, arms, shoulder and other body parts. Although the lesions do not cause itching and form no scars, they may get discolored over time.
Acute Cutaneous Lupus
It occurs while your systemic lupus is active. The classic symptom of acute cutaneous lupus is the malar rash-flattened areas of red skin on the face that resembles sunburn. The lesions do not form scars but changes in skin color can be observed.
Drug-induced lupus is caused by certain prescription medicines. The drugs commonly associated with drug-induced lupus are:
- Procainamide (used to treat irregular heart rhythms)
- Hydralazine (used to treat hypertension)
- isoniazid (used to treat TB)
It may take continuous therapy for several months or even years using high-risk drugs like that discussed above for the typical symptoms of lupus to appear. The symptoms usually disappear within six months after you discontinue the medication.
Neonatal lupus is a condition associated with anti-SSB/La and/or anti-SSA/Ro antibodies that reach the fetus from the mother. It is not true lupus. Babies may have liver problems, skin rash, or low blood cell counts at birth but the symptoms disappear entirely after 6 months without causing any lasting effects.
However, there exists a serious condition associated with neonatal lupus, congenital heart block that slows down the heartbeat. Newborns of mothers with lupus are at higher risk of developing this life-threatening condition. It is usually detected when the fetus is 18-24 months old. The condition is permanent and the infants would require a pace-maker. Employing proper test measures, doctors can identify mothers at risk and treat infants before or at birth. Most of the infants born to mothers with lupus are born healthy.
Lupus prevention is not practicable in most cases, except in the case of drug-induced lupus. However, you can do some things in order to reduce the chances of lupus flare-ups. These include avoiding direct sunlight, practicing infection prevention and stress management techniques, and getting adequate rest. Taking medications as per the physician’s advice is important to prevent flare-ups and possible damage to internal organs.