What is Lupus?
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own healthy cells, leading to an increase in inflammation throughout the whole body. While inflammation can be good at times, the kind of inflammation lupus creates throughout the body is often damaging.
There are 4 different types of Lupus:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
This is the most common, and general, type of Lupus. This type of Lupus can literally attack any cell or organ in the body.
The most common complications include:
- Inflammation of the kidneys, called lupus nephritis, can affect the body’s ability to filter waste from the blood.
- Inflammation of the nervous system and brain can cause memory problems, confusion, headaches, and strokes.
- Inflammation in the brain’s blood vessels can cause high fevers, seizures, and behavioral changes.
- Hardening of the arteries or coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack.
SLE is not just limited to attacking these systems. It can pretty much go after whatever it wants. These just happen to be the most common.
The good news? Proper disease management can help mitigate or avoid these problems.
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus
This form of lupus is limited to only attacking the skin. Although cutaneous lupus can cause many types of rashes and lesions.
The most common types of rashes include:
- The most common type is a discoid rash. Discoid rashes are raised, scaly and red, but not itchy.
- Another common example of a rash is one that is over the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose, known as the butterfly rash. Other rashes or sores may appear on the face, neck, or scalp (areas of the skin that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light).
- Hair loss and changes in the pigment, or color, of the skin are also symptoms of cutaneous lupus.
People who have systemic lupus, typically also have cutaneous lupus, with the skin rash as their main symptom. Approximately 10 percent of people who have cutaneous lupus will develop systemic lupus eventually.
The good news? This type of lupus does not attack major organs.
This is a lupus like disease that can be caused by certain perscription medications. The symptoms are similar to that of SLE, but drug-induced lupus will rarely attack major organs.
The most common perscriptions that can cause this include:
- Hydralazine—Treatment for high blood pressure or hypertension
- Procainamide—Treatment for irregular heart rhythms
- Isoniazid—Treatment for tuberculosis
The good news? Lupus-like symptoms will usually dissapear after 6 months of stopping the medication.
This is technically not a true form of lupus. It is a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus. It is caused by antibodies from the mother acting upon the infant in the womb. At birth, the infant may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts but these symptoms disappear completely after several months with no lasting effects. Some infants with neonatal lupus can also have a serious heart defect. Physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth.
The good news? Most infants of mothers with lupus are entirely healthy.
The main thing all of these different types of lupus have in common is the fact that the body has created antibodies against itself, and is continuously using them to attack the various organs in which they are coded to attack.
Since the body’s immune system is always active, the fatigue and brain fog that people with lupus experience is very similar to the fatigue a normally healthy person could experience while sick. The difference is that, with lupus, the fatigue isn’t temporary.
It’s a lifelong battle that never stops.