What is lupus?
Lupus (say: loop-us) is a disease of the immune system that can affect many parts of the body. Normally, antibodies produced by the immune system help protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances. In people who have lupus, the immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy cells and tissue by mistake.
Are there different types of lupus?
There are several kinds of lupus. Your symptoms may vary depending on which type of lupus you have.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and most serious type of lupus. This kind of lupus can affect any of the systems of the body, including blood vessels, joints, kidneys, skin, the heart and lungs, and even the brain and nerves. Symptoms of SLE can be mild or severe.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is sometimes called cutaneous lupus erythematosus. This kind of lupus only affects the skin. It does not affect other organs the way SLE does, but some people who have DLE may also develop SLE lupus. Usually a person who has DLE will notice a red rash or scaly patch, commonly on the face or scalp. The rash is often in the shape of a circle or disk. The rash may last a few days or sometimes years. It can go away for a while and then come back. Sometimes DLE can show up as sores in the mouth or nose.
Drug-induced lupus is caused by a reaction to certain prescription medicines that usually have been taken for a long time. The symptoms of this type of lupus are similar to symptoms of SLE, including muscle and joint pain, a rash and fever. But drug-induced lupus does not cause problems with the kidneys, the heart, the brain or blood vessels. The symptoms are usually mild, and most of the time will go away after you stop taking the medicine. Men are more likely to get this kind of lupus. This is because some of the drugs with the highest risk of causing it are used to treat certain heart conditions that are more common in men.
Neonatal lupus is a rare form of lupus that affects newborn babies. Babies who have neonatal lupus are born with a skin rash, and sometimes liver and heart problems. For most babies, the symptoms gradually go away over several months. In rare cases, neonatal lupus can cause a serious heart problem. Doctors think that neonatal lupus might be caused in part by certain proteins in the mother’s blood that are passed on to the baby at birth. If you are pregnant and know you have SLE, your doctor will probably want to monitor you closely during pregnancy for certain complications. However, most babies of mothers who have SLE are entirely healthy.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff.
American Academy of Family Physicians