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Lupus Information

Types of Lupus

There are four different types of lupus. They are:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common type of lupus. It can affect many different parts of the body and the symptoms can range from very mild to severe. SLE can affect only the skin or the joints. In the most severe cases, SLE affects the lungs, heart and kidneys.
  • Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is always limited to the skin. It is marked by a rash that may appear on the face, neck, and scalp. The rash can last anywhere from a few days to a few years. This type of lupus does not generally affect the internal organs. Approximately 10 percent of people with DLE will also develop the systemic form and treatment of discoid lupus will not prevent SLE.
  • Drug-induced lupus is caused by use of certain prescription drugs and the symptoms are similar to SLE. Drugs that cause this form of lupus are hydralazine and procainamide. This type of lupus generally goes away when use of the medication is discontinued.
  • Neo-natal lupus is a rare form of lupus affecting newborn babies of women with SLE or certain other immune system disorders. Newborns with lupus develop skin rashes, liver abnormalities or low blood counts, which go away over several months Babies with neonatal lupus may have a serious heart defect. Physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, allowing for prompt treatment of the infant at or before birth. Neonatal lupus is very rare.

Symptoms

Lupus has been called the great masquerader among diseases. Its symptoms are vague and no two people with lupus will exhibit exactly the same symptoms. Some of the signs associated with lupus most commonly are:

  • Pain and swelling of the joints
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Anemia
  • Kidney problems
  • Chest pain
  • Butterfly rash across cheeks and nose
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting problems
  • Raynaud's phenomenon (fingers turning white and/or blue in cold)
  • Seizures
  • Mouth or nose ulcers

People with lupus will often experience flare-ups in the course of the disease, followed by periods of relative calm and absence of symptoms. Some of the warning signs of a flare-up include new or high fever, increased fatigue or pain, onset of rash, upset stomach, headache, and dizziness.

Who Gets Lupus?

People usually get SLE between the ages of 15 and 45, but it may be contracted during childhood or later on in life. Women are eight to 10 times more likely to get lupus than men. Lupus occurs more often in African Americans, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Muscloskeletal and Skin Diseases. Lupus is more common in people who have family members with lupus. African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos tend to develop lupus at a younger age and have more symptoms at diagnosis.

They also tend to have more severe disease than whites. For example, African American patients have more seizures and strokes, while Hispanic/Latino patients have more heart problems. We don't understand why some people seem to have more problems with lupus than others.It is less common for children under age 15 to have lupus. One exception is babies born to women with lupus. These children may have heart, liver, or skin problems caused by lupus. With good care, most women with lupus can have a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Causes

While the exact cause of lupus remains unknown, researchers know that genetic, environmental and hormonal factors come into play. Infections, antibiotics, extreme stress and hormonal fluctuations may trigger lupus in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

Diagnosis

Lupus is hard to diagnose because no single set of symptoms characterizes the disease. If a doctor suspects lupus, he or she will perform the following:

  • Take the patient’s medical history
  • A complete physical examination
  • Run several laboratory tests
  • Order skin or kidney biopsy

Treatment

There is no cure for lupus. An effective treatment—usually a combination of medication and lifestyle changes--will curb flare-ups and assuage the symptoms associated with lupus.The Lupus Foundation of America recommends the following:

  • Avoiding overexposure to the sun and applying sunscreen will help photosensitive patients from getting a rash
  • Regular exercise
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption