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What is Lupus Erythematosus?

Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system starts attacking your body’s own organs and tissues. The most characteristic feature of lupus erythematosus is the development of a rash on your cheek that is shaped like the wings of a butterfly.

Picture of Lupus Erythematosus

Symptoms of Lupus Erythematosus

The signs and symptoms of lupus erythematosus vary from person to person. The symptoms may come on slowly or develop suddenly. Most people will have mild forms of the disease that flare up from time to time. The common signs and symptoms of lupus erythematosus include:

  • A butterfly-shaped rash across your cheek
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Skin Lesions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry eyes

Causes of Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus erythematosus may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The potential triggers may include exposure to sunlight, infections and taking certain medications.

Risk Factors of Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus erythematosus is more common among women and is diagnosed most often in people between the ages of 15 and 45 years.

Complications of Lupus Erythematosus

Lupus erythematosus can cause complications in different areas of the body:

  • Brain: Complications include strokes, seizures, behavioral changes, and vision changes.
  • Heart: Complications include cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and inflammation of the heart membrane (pericarditis).
  • Lungs: Complications include inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity (pleurisy), bleeding into the lungs and pneumonia.
  • Kidneys: Kidney failure is one of the main reasons for death in people with lupus erythematosus.
  • Blood vessels: Inflammation of the blood vessels, increased bleeding, risk of clotting and anemia are some of the complications associated with lupus erythematosus.
  • Other complications: These include increased susceptibility to infections, pregnancy complications, bone death (avascular necrosis) and cancer.

Diagnosis of Lupus Erythematosus

A diagnosis of lupus erythematosus is based on a combination of signs and symptoms, physical examination, blood and urine tests, imaging tests such as a chest X-ray or echocardiogram and a biopsy.

Treatment of Lupus Erythematosus

The treatment of lupus erythematosus depends on the severity of the disease. Medications commonly prescribed in the treatment of lupus erythematosus include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs): reduce fever and swelling
  • Anti-malarial drugs: treat acute flare-ups of lupus erythematosus
  • Corticosteroids: They help decrease inflammation and improve healing
  • Immunosuppressants: suppress the action of the immune system and may be beneficial in severe manifestations of lupus erythematosus
  • Biologics: Research studies have indicated that biologics (drugs derived from living organisms) may be effective for treatment during the early stages of the disease.

Prognosis of Lupus Erythematosus

Due to the advances in medicine, the prognosis of lupus erythematosus is very good. Most people with the condition can expect to lead normal lives with close follow-up and appropriate treatment.

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