There are two main forms of this autoimmune disease – Systemic lupus erythematosus and Discoid lupus erythematosus.
Systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and debilitating form which can cause inflammation of the joints, tendons, connective tissue and major organs such as the kidneys and heart. However, the most obvious symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash which occurs across the cheeks and nose.
Causes of Lupus
It’s generally believed that lupus is caused by alterations in the immune system. The body’s immune system normally fights foreign bacteria and viruses; however, with lupus, the immune system may fail to recognize “self” substances and will make antibodies that attack the body’s own tissue. This is called autoimmunity. The body may also fail to clear antigens (foreign particles), and certain white blood cells may behave abnormally.
Most researchers feel that it is likely that there is a genetic component to lupus. The condition can be considered hereditary in that people who have a family history or lupus itself, other autoimmune condtions, or allergic conditions, seem to be at increased risk of developing the disease. This is not to say that everyone with a family history such as this will develop lupus. Researchers have not discovered a single gene that is linked to lupus but have found groups of genes, particularly on chromosomes 6, 16 and 20, which seem to indicate a person is at greater risk of developing the condition.
Symptoms of Lupus
SLE symptoms may develop slowly over months or years, or they may appear suddenly. Symptoms tend to be worse during winter months, perhaps because prolonged exposure to sunlight in the summer causes a gradual build-up of factors that trigger symptoms months later.
Each person with lupus has slightly different symptoms that can range from mild to severe and may come and go over time. However, some of the most common symptoms of lupus include painful or swollen joints (arthritis), unexplained fever, and extreme fatigue. A characteristic red skin rash (the so-called butterfly or malar rash) may appear across the nose and cheeks. Affecting what the Lupus Foundation of America estimates is 500,000 to 1.5 million Americans, lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys
Steroids. Steroid creams can be applied directly to rashes. The use of creams is usually safe and effective, especially for mild rashes. The use of steroid creams or tablets in low doses can be effective for mild or moderate features of lupus. Steroids also can be used in higher doses when internal organs are threatened. Unfortunately, high doses also are most likely to produce side effects.
Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine)Commonly used to help keep mild lupus-related problems, such as skin and joint disease, under control. This drug is also effective at preventing lupus flares.
antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine for rashes, arthritis and malaise
immunosuppressive and cytotoxic drugs such as Immuran (azathioprine) and Cytoxan (cycyclophosphamide) are prescribed with vital organs are involved and/or corticosteroids aren’t effective.