Neonatal lupus is a congenital autoimmune disorder and the affected infants develop skin eruption or red rashes on skin. The potential complication associated with neonatal lupus is congenital heart block, and as it does not usually resolve in the first months of life, the infants would require a pacemaker ultimately.
Some infants develop heart conditions while some develop skin conditions and in rare conditions, they develop both. The disease got its name from the similarity between the skin rashes in both conditions meaning that neonatal lupus is a separate disorder and not one among the different types of lupus.
What Are The Symptoms Of The Disorder?
Reddish lesions on skin is the common symptom associated with neonatal lupus and the rash usually clears after few months of the infant’s birth. In rare cases, the symptoms are seen in childhood and the most affected parts are the face and scalp.
Congenital heart block is another symptom of neonatal lupus, and a complete heart block is an indicative of the permanency of the condition, which can be life threatening. Infants with this disorder will have lower number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Cholestatic hepatitis is a rare condition associated with neonatal lupus and is characterized by reduced flow of bile from the liver (cholestatis), yellowing of skin, whites of eyes and mucous membranes.
In rare cases, infants with this disorder may have large head that is not normal in infants of that age. The condition is called macrocephaly.
What Are The Possible Causes Of The Disorder?
The acquired disorder occurs when specific antibodies reach the fetus from the pregnant mother through placenta. Antibodies are essential to fight foreign substances called antigens and the movement of antibodies from the mother to the fetus through placenta is normal. In this case, autoantibodies produced in the mother’s body are transported to the fetus and they attack healthy fetal tissues. The possible reason for this abnormal behavior is yet to be understood.
Mothers of these infants will usually have disorders like lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome etc but they need not show the symptoms.
The neonatal lupus treatment methods are specifically designed according to the symptoms that an affected infant shows. Cutaneous symptoms are resolved without any treatment during the first few months of life and if an infant is diagnosed with neonatal lupus, they should receive a thorough evaluation to identify any possible hematological or hepatic complications.
Infants with the disorder usually requires protection from sunlight initially and if the infants have congenital heart block, they would most probably require a pace maker.
Many clinical studies are going on to identify the possibility of neonatal lupus and investigational therapies like the ones that use fluorinated steroids are used to treat fetuses with cardiac diseases.