Types of Lupus
When people talk about lupus, they may be referring to the most common form—systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, there are actually four kinds. Click or scroll to read more about each of them: SLE, cutaneous lupus, drug-induced lupus, and neonatal lupus.
I was just diagnosed with SLE. I have already asked my doctor so many questions. But I feel like I still have a hundred more.
SLE accounts for around 70% of all cases of lupus, and it can range from mild to severe. While there is no cure now, there’s a lot you can do to help manage your lupus and possibly improve quality of life—especially getting the support of your medical team for timely treatment and care.
In about half of people living with SLE, a major organ or tissue in the body, such as the kidneys, brain, or heart, may be affected. Some of the more serious complications include:
- Kidney inflammation, which can affect the body's ability to filter waste from the blood, which can damage the kidneys to the point of needing dialysis or a kidney transplant and lead to a disease called “lupus nephritis.”
- Inflammation of the nervous system and brain, which can cause brain fog, headaches, and strokes.
- Hardening of the arteries or a buildup of deposits on artery walls, which can lead to a heart attack.
This type of lupus affects only the skin. About 10% of all lupus cases are cutaneous.
Cutaneous lupus commonly causes both malar rashes and discoid rashes. The areas of rash can be raised, scaly, red areas that may not itch. Others who live with cutaneous lupus may suffer from 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 (where the skin is exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light), or in the mouth, nose, or vagina. Hair loss and changes in the color of the skin are also symptoms of cutaneous lupus.
This form also accounts for about 10% of all lupus cases. It is caused by high doses of certain medications. The symptoms of drug-induced lupus are like those of SLE but rarely affect major organs. These symptoms usually disappear within 6 months of stopping the medicine that caused them.
Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that can affect infants of women who have lupus. The mother’s antibodies affect the fetus in the womb. At birth, the baby may have a skin rash, liver problems, or low blood cell counts. These symptoms usually disappear completely after 6 months with no lasting effects. Newborns of women with lupus are at greater risk for developing a very rare but serious heart defect.
With proper testing, doctors can now identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be treated at or before birth.