Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Defining Lupus continued...
There are several kinds of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the form of the disease that most
people are referring to when they say "lupus." The word
"systemic" means the disease can affect many parts of the body. The
symptoms of SLE may be mild or serious. Although SLE usually first affects
people between the ages of 15 and 45 years, it can occur in childhood or later
in life as well. This booklet focuses on SLE.
- Discoid lupus erythematosus is a chronic skin disorder in which a red,
raised rash appears on the face, scalp, or elsewhere. The raised areas may
become thick and scaly and may cause scarring. The rash may last for days or
years and may recur. A small percentage of people with discoid lupus have or
develop SLE later.
- Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus refers to skin lesions that appear
on parts of the body exposed to sun. The lesions do not cause scarring.
- Drug-induced lupus is a form of lupus caused by medications. Many different
drugs can cause drug-induced lupus. Symptoms are similar to those of SLE
(arthritis, rash, fever, and chest pain) and they typically go away completely
when the drug is stopped. The kidneys and brain are rarely involved.
- Neonatal lupus is a rare disease that can occur in newborn babies of women
with SLE, Sjögren's syndrome, or no disease at all. Scientists suspect that
neonatal lupus is caused by autoantibodies in the mother's blood called anti-Ro
(SSA) and anti-La (SSB). Autoantibodies ("auto" means self) are blood
proteins that act against the body's own parts. At birth, the babies have a
skin rash, liver problems, and low blood counts. These symptoms gradually go
away over several months. In rare instances, babies with neonatal lupus may
have a serious heart problem that slows down the natural rhythm of the heart.
Neonatal lupus is rare, and most infants of mothers with SLE are entirely
healthy. All women who are pregnant and known to have anti-Ro (SSA) or anti-La
(SSB) antibodies should be monitored by echocardiograms (a test that monitors
the heart and surrounding blood vessels) during the 16th and 30th weeks of
It is important for women with SLE or other related autoimmune disorders to be
under a doctor's care during pregnancy. Physicians can now identify mothers at
highest risk for complications, allowing for prompt treatment of the infant at
or before birth. SLE can also flare during pregnancy, and prompt treatment can
keep the mother healthier longer.