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Lupus is a chronic and highly complex autoimmune disease that can affect your entire body, including your skin, joints, lungs, blood vessels and brain. While the cause of this disease is unknown, autoimmune diseases happen when your immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake. This attack response can damage the parts of the body where the immune system is in defense mode.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States, and at least 5 million worldwide, have some form of lupus. While anyone can be affected by this disease, it is usually seen in young women, ages 15 – 44. There is no known cure for lupus but there are effective treatment options available to help manage the disease.

What causes lupus?

Genes are a significant factor but so are other things, like environmental and hormonal changes. There is no known cause of lupus. However, approximately 20 percent of individuals with lupus have a family member who has or will develop it or another autoimmune disease. Individuals with other autoimmune diseases are also at a higher risk for developing a form of lupus.

What are the different forms of lupus?

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and serious form. SLE can range from mild to life-threatening and can affect any part of the body, including internal organs. This form can have short and/or long-term effects but early diagnosis and treatments can help reduce any long-term damage.
  • Cutaneous lupus is a form of lupus that causes rashes or lesions on the skin. It can appear on any part of the body but usually forms on areas exposed to sunlight.
  • Drug-induced lupus is very similar to SLE but is caused by an overreaction to certain types of medication. Symptoms will usually appear 3 to 6 months after beginning a new medication but will usually disappear once the individual stops taking it.
  • Neonatal lupus is an extremely rare form that is passed through the mother’s antibodies to a newborn. Symptoms tend to disappear completely after 6 months, with no long-term effects.

What are some symptoms of lupus?

  • Fatigue is by far the biggest symptom of all forms of lupus.
  • Malar rash is the second most common symptom, about 50 percent of individuals experience this red “malar” rash or change in color. This rash usually appears across the cheeks and nose in the shape of a butterfly and can last a few days to weeks. It can also be painful and itchy. In some cases, the rash can appear on the ears, shoulders, chest and any other area exposed to the sun.
  • Joint pain and swelling is also highly common. Almost all individuals affected by a form of lupus will have arthritis; which is basically an inflammation or swelling of the joint lining. The pain and swelling may come and go and can be alleviated with arthritis pain relief medications.
  • Unexplained fevers are a fairly common symptom of SLE.

Although there is no cure, there are many treatment options available to minimize the symptoms during flare ups when lupus is active. This may include medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antimalarials, corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs.

Your Trillium Creek Dermatology skin experts will tailor a lupus treatment to your specific needs.

About Trillium Creek Dermatology and Surgery Center: Few places in the country offer the quality care, innovation and state-of-the-art procedures that are available at Trillium Creek. Through our integrative medicine approach, Trillium offers world-class general dermatology, dermatologic surgery, laser surgery, cosmetic dermatology, skin cancer treatment, Mohs surgery and holistic medicine.