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Understanding Lupus

4 months ago / by Nancy Amon

During Lupus Awareness Month, learn about this debilitating disease – its causes, symptoms and treatments

Woman holds up a purple ribbon, a symbol used to raise awareness about lupus and other diseases
Woman holds up a purple ribbon, a symbol used to raise awareness about lupus and other diseases. Shutterstock

An estimated 1.5 million people in America have lupus, and 9 out of 10 are women of childbearing age. Lupus impacts the body on many levels. Lupus is manageable.

And May, being Lupus Awareness Month, is a good time to learn about its symptoms and ensuring correct treatment.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes mass inflammation within the body. It attacks the immune system, causing the body to turn on itself. It attack healthy tissue, major organs, and various body systems. People have often reported joint pain, skin rashes, and other skin breakouts. Most lupus patients are women. Still, men and children are no strangers to the condition.

What Causes Lupus?

Lupus can be caused due to many factors, as mentioned in this article. However, unprotected exposure to sunlight along with genetic conditions, ethnicity, and infection may be a factor.

Symptoms of Lupus

All types of lupus present with different symptoms. Some include but are not limited to the following:

  • Skin lesions
  • Fatigue
  • A butterfly rash across the face
  • Joint pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever
  • Headaches and confusion
  • Chest pain

These are various types of lupus.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE, is one of the most common types. This form of lupus can be aggressive. Apart from developing skin conditions, people may also experience joint and muscle pain and kidney conditions.

Who gets SLE?

SLE is common in women between the ages of 18 to 45. In addition, the disease can also be passed on in the family, environmentally influenced, or a result of an infection.

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE)

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) often presents as a skin rash or sunburn on the face, nose, and cheeks.

Chronic or Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)

DLE presents on the skin as raised rash-like and scaly lesions, often burning, itchy, and sore. Years of undiagnosed DLE symptoms sometimes become cancerous and could cause scalp hair loss (alopecia).

Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (SCLE)

Subacute cutaneous lupus presents as raised and inflamed rings bordering the existing rash-like lesions. They may occur on the limbs and face and may not leave scars the way DLE does.

Who is prone to get lupus of the skin?

Skin lupus is common in people with SLE and those exposed to too much sun without sunscreen. Other factors are a family history of lupus , smoking, certain medications, and autoantibodies that attack healthy cells and tissue.

Drug-Induced Lupus

Drug-induced lupus is a side-effect of certain drugs like blood pressure (hypertension) medication, tuberculosis (TB) medication, chronic drugs to treat arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat, and acne medication. Treatment for arthritis can also induce lupus in some people.

Who is at risk of drug-induced lupus?

People at higher risk of drug-induced lupus include individuals using chronic or acute medication to treat their health condition. Sometimes, long-term use of these medications might cause lupus.

Neonatal Lupus

Even though lupus is not contagious, it can sometimes pass from a pregnant mother to a newborn under 28 days old. This is the case of pregnant women with the anti-bodies “Anti-Ro” and “Anti-La.” This is due to systemic sclerosis, mixed connective tissue disease, and idiopathic inflammatory myopathy.


This occurs after a doctor has examined and sampled skin (skin biopsy) for testing in the laboratory. Tests will also cover urine and blood, X-rays and echocardiograms, to name a few. Treatment may consist of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), immunosuppressants, and corticosteroids.

Patients may also have to change their lifestyles, like always wearing sun protection, staying active, quitting smoking, and eating a balanced diet.

If you or someone you know lives with lupus, living with the condition is possible with treatment and management.