Lupus erythematosus (LE) is an autoimmune disease that can affect the skin, joints and internal organs. Due to this condition, the connective tissue of joints, kidneys, mucosa and the walls of blood vessels are chronically inflamed. Lupus erythematosus is a disease that falls under the heading of ‘rheumatic diseases’.
The exact cause of lupus erythematosus is unknown. There are several known factors, however, that may play a role in the development of this disease:
The disease has many different symptoms, because the entire body may be involved. Signs and symptoms of lupus can be:
- Fatigue and listlessness.
- Arthritis and joint pain.
- Skin defects, rash.
- Defects in the blood.
- Kidney inflammation.
- Neurological problems.
- Heart and lung disorders.
- Hypersensitivity to sunlight.
- Sores in mouth, throat and nasal cavities.
- Abrasive and dry sensation in the eyes.
- Raynaud syndrome.
- Weight loss.
The condition usually alternates active periods (flare-ups) with less active periods. So in one period, the patient may suffer more from the above-mentioned symptoms than in another period.
The diagnosis of lupus erythematosus should be made based on the signs and symptoms. Because the disease can affect so many organs and tissues, there are many tests that can suggest or exclude the lupus disease. What tests are used, depends on the personal situation and the organs and tissues involved. With the aid of laboratory tests, the diagnosis can be confirmed.
There is no treatment that can cure a patient from lupus erythematosus. However, the symptoms can be reduced with various treatments. Medications that may be prescribed are:
- Painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
- Medications that inhibit inflammation, narrow blood vessels, suppress the immune system and inhibit the development of white blood cells.
- Antihypertensive drugs.
- Antiepileptic drugs.
The disease is often chronic and usually gets eventually worse. There are often symptom-free periods that can last for years. Flare-ups are less common after menopause. The prognosis has been considerably improved over the past twenty years, since nowadays lupus is recognized earlier than before. Additionally, improved treatment methods have become available. When the initial inflammation is under control, the long-term prognosis is usually good.
Apart from treatment with medication, it’s very important for lupus patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The main advices are:
- Ensure adequate rest and sleep.
- Don’t smoke and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- Avoid anxiety and stress.
- Take medications as prescribed.
- Avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight. Many people feel that their rashes, joint pain and other lupus symptoms worsen after sunbathing.
- Avoid contact with infectious diseases.
- Eat healthy. A balanced diet is generally best.
- Lupus erythematosus was first described in 1828 by the French dermatologist Laurent-Théodore Biett.
- The term ‘lupus erythematosus’ is derived from the Latin words lupus (wolf) and erythematosus (redness). This name is given to the disease, because it was found that the characteristic rash on the face looks like a wolf bite.
- The prevalence of lupus erythematosus is 0.1%.
- Lupus occurs mainly in women and usually begins in people aged 10 to 30 years.
- Asian and negroid people have the condition more often than people with a white skin.