WHAT IS LUPUS?
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus is limited to the skin. Although cutaneous lupus can cause many types of rashes and lesions (sores), the most common—called discoid rash—is raised, scaly and red, but not itchy. Areas of rash appear like disks, or circles. Another common example of cutaneous lupus is a rash 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), or in the mouth, nose, or vagina. Hair loss and changes in the pigment, or color, of the skin are also symptoms of cutaneous lupus. (Source: Lupus Foundation of America)
Drug-induced Lupus Erythematosus is a lupus-like disease caused by certain prescription drugs. The symptoms of drug-induced lupus are similar to those of systemic lupus, but it rarely affects major organs. (Source: Lupus Foundation of America)
Neonatal Lupus is a rare condition associated with anti-SSA/Ro and/or anti-SSB/La antibodies from the mother that affect the fetus. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts, but these symptoms typically disappear completely after six months with no lasting effects. The most serious symptom is congenital heart block, which causes a slow heartbeat. This is usually detected when the fetus is between 18 and 24 weeks old. With proper testing, physicians can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth. Most infants of mothers with lupus are entirely healthy. (Source: Lupus Foundation of America)
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies to cells within the body leading to widespread inflammation and tissue damage. The causes of SLE are unknown but are believed to be linked to genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. SLE may be characterized by periods of illness and remissions. SLE has a variety of clinical manifestations and can affect joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels. People with SLE may experience fatigue, pain or swelling in joints, skin rashes, and fevers. A team approach to treating lupus, which may involve specialists in rheumatology, nephrology, dermatology, cardiology, is often warranted due to the number of organ systems involved. (http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/lupus.htm)
WHO GETS LUPUS?
While there are several forms of lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, is the most serious form of lupus. Existing prevalence estimates range from 322,000 with definite or probable SLE 1 to 1.5 million Americans living with some form of lupus. Lupus affects women nine times more often than men, with 80% of new cases developing between the ages of 15 and 44. Lupus is three times more common among women of color than white women.
Recent studies indicate that lupus incidence rates are almost three times higher in black women than white women, and affect 1 in 537 young African American women. Minority women tend to develop lupus at a younger age, experience more serious complications and have higher mortality rates—up to three times the mortality rate of white women.
Young black women who have lupus nephritis (lupus kidney disease) tend to have a more severe disease course and are more likely to progress to end stage renal disease. In addition, non-white patients are more likely to suffer from lupus-related depression, cardiovascular disease and diabetes and have worse health-related quality of life than white patients.
Because lupus can affect so many different organs, a wide range of symptoms can occur. These symptoms may come and go, and different symptoms may appear at different times during the course of the disease.
The most common symptoms of lupus, which are the same for females and males, are:
• Extreme fatigue
• Painful or swollen joints
• Swelling in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
• Pain in chest on deep breathing
• Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
• Sensitivity to sun or artificial light
• Hair loss
• Abnormal blood clotting
• Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
• Mouth or nose ulcers
People living with lupus may also experience flares, which are increased disease activity with new or worsening clinical signs and symptoms.
Most risk factors for lupus are non-modifiable. However, certain modifiable environmental factors have been linked to the development of or aggravation of symptoms of lupus, such as exposure to fine particulate matter or silica. Many people with lupus find their disease is made worse by exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight or artificial light, which may require adaptations both at home and in the work setting.