The Many Faces of Lupus
There are many types of lupus, the most common of which is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or simply referred to as lupus. Cutaneous, drug-induced, and neonatal are other and less common types of lupus.
Systemic lupus erythematosus, as the name suggests, affects multiple body systems when active and considered to be the most dangerous type of lupus as it can lead to multisystem failure. It can cause inflammation in the kidneys (lupus nephritis) rendering them unable to properly filter waste from the blood, as well as inflammation in the nervous system and brain leading to cognitive and memory problems and headaches. SLE can also cause vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels that can lead to a myriad of complications depending on the organ system affected, e.g., inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain causes seizures and behavioral changes. Although perilous during its active phase or flares, systemic lupus erythematosus can go into periods of remission wherein the disease is dormant.
Cutaneous or discoid lupus erythematosus is limited to the skin and is characterized by a discoid rash that is raised, red, and scaly. The rashes are commonly found in the areas of the skin that catch sunlight such as the face, neck, and scalp. In other cases, they can be found in the mouth, nose, or even the vagina. Hair loss and changes in skin pigmentation can also present with cutaneous lupus. Unlike SLE, discoid lupus erythematosus does not affect internal organs, but 10% of the people with this type of lupus tend to progress into full-blown lupus.
Drug-induced lupus is brought about by certain prescription drugs and can present like systemic lupus erythematosus but does not upset internal organs. Some blood pressure, arrhythmia, and tuberculosis medications have been associated with drug-induced lupus such as hydralazine, procainamide, and isoniazid. This type of lupus is more common in men as they take said drugs more often than women, but not everyone who takes these drugs is bound to develop lupus. The symptoms actually go away within six months after stopping the medication.
Neonatal lupus is a term used to describe lupus-like symptoms in an infant of a mother with lupus. While not a true form of lupus, neonatal lupus may cause skin rash, liver problems, and low blood cell counts on newborns, but these complications eventually disappear after several months leaving no lasting effects. In fact, most mothers with lupus give birth to entirely healthy babies.