Overview of Lupus

Lupus is an auto-immune disease in which the body's own immune system starts acting against the normal and healthy tissues of the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus

Lupus is an auto-immune disease in which the body's own immune system starts acting against the normal and healthy tissues of the body. The hyperactive immune system in turn affects the other organs of the body such as inflammation (swelling) of joints, heart, lungs, kidney and brain.
The word Lupus is a Latin word, literally meaning ‘wolf’. This word is derived from the fact that in this auto-immune disorder, rashes appear on cheeks skin below the both eyes and covering the nose that seems like a wolf’s facial markings.


Lupus affects both genders but is particularly common in women of age 15 to 44 years.

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Types of Lupus

Lupus symptoms vary from case to case based on severity of condition. Sign and symptoms of lupus include;

  • Fever
  • Fatigue (exhaustion)
  • Butterfly shaped rashes on nose and cheeks
  • Kidney problems
  • Arthritis (joints swelling)
  • Hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Pulmonary (lungs) problems
  • Dried mouth and eyes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Mouth sores
  • Psychosis (illusive thoughts)
  • Anemia (blood cells disorder)
  • Eye diseases
  • Memory loss
  • Photosensitivity

Causes of Lupus

There are four types of lupus, as follows:

  • Systemic lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

SLE is the commonest type of lupus. It is so named because it affects multiple organs of the body i.e. joints, kidney, heart, skin, lungs and nervous system. SLE symptoms vary with severity of i.e. early to late stage.
SLE goes through a cycle of two periods; flares and remissions. When disease is active and symptoms get worse, they are called ‘flares’ and when disease becomes inactive and symptoms improve, they are called remissions.

  • Lupus cerebritis occurs in SLE. It is the inflammation of the nervous system and has neuropsychiatric symptoms i.e. coma, headache, stroke, seizures, psychosis and mood swings.

  • Lupus nephritis is another complication of SLE in which the immune system attacks the kidneys. Lupus nephritis treatment includes; use of steroids, immune-suppressive drugs and stop the use of salt and protein.

SLE can be life-threatening if left untreated!

Therefore, a timely diagnosis and treatment is required to address its symptoms. SLE treatment includes the use of immuno-suppressive drugs i.e. hydroxyquinoline and corticosteroids.
SLE can affect both males and females but is more common in females of child-bearing age (15-45 years old).

Can a SLE affected female have a normal pregnancy?

Yes! SLE women can give birth to a normal baby. However, they are considered at high risk of pregnancy.

  • Cutaneous lupus

Lupus that affects your skin and causes lesions and rashes. Cutaneous lupus is further categorized into three types based on severity.

  • Acute cutaneous lupus: a butterfly shaped red colored rash on cheeks and nose. It is also associated with SLE.
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus: The red, raised and scaly rashes all over the body. Those areas that have been exposed to sunlight are more prone to develop rashes.
  • Chronic cutaneous lupus: The purple or red rashes on skin that turn into skin scarring (marks), hair loss and discoloration. This condition is also known as “discoid lupus erythematosus”.
  • Neonatal lupus

Neonatal lupus is an extremely rare condition. This occurs in those infants whose mothers have some autoimmune antibodies that pass across the placenta from mother to fetus.
According to research, mothers with lupus antibodies do not always show symptoms of lupus. However, an asymptomatic lupus mother can give birth to a baby with visible lupus symptoms (neonatal lupus).
Symptoms of neonatal lupus include; low blood count, liver issues after birth, heart defects and skin rashes.
Pregnant females with auto-antibodies should be very cautious. They should consult an Obstetrician (maternal-fetal specialist) and Rheumatologist during pregnancy.

  • Drug induced lupus (DIL)

Drug induced lupus or drug induced lupus erythematosus is caused by the use of certain medicines that trigger lupus. Long-term usage of certain drugs leads to DIL e.g. antimicrobials (terbinafine, pyrazinamide), anticonvulsant drugs (Dilantin), HBP drugs (timoptic, hydroxyzine) and anti-TNF agents (infliximab, enbrel).
DIL produces symptoms similar to SLE but do not affect major organs. DIL can be cured after stopping the use of causative medicines.


Risk Factors of Lupus

The exact single cause of lupus is not known yet. It may cause by the combination of some factors including;

  • Environment pollutants- environment factors that can trigger lupus are; silica dust (toxins) and smoking.
  • Sunlight- sunlight may trigger lupus skin lesions.
  • Hormonal imbalance- usually by increased estrogen level.
  • Inheritance- some genes are associated with lupus. If someone in your family has lupus history then you might have a chance of getting lupus.
  • Infectious diseases- some viral infection have shown link with lupus i.e. Epstein barr virus and Cytomegalovirus.
  • Certain medications- long-term use of certain medicines increase the risk of lupus. The medicines include; tetracyclines, minocycline, quinidine, hydralazine, procainamide and TNF blockers used for inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

It can be possible that lupus is caused by some unknown factor other than the causes mentioned here.



Is lupus disease contagious?
No! Lupus is not contagious (transfer from one person to another). It is caused by the combined effects of some factors.

How much does the lifespan of a lupus patient?
Nowadays, lupus patients can survive longer than ever due to the advancement in diagnostic tests and treatment. Most people (~80%) live a normal lifespan.



Preventing lupus might not be avoidable, completely, however some measures can be taken to prevent lupus. One major prevention can be to always wear sunscreen, indoors and outdoors. In case of a rash development directly, consult with a doctor immediately.

Treatment of Lupus | When to Consult a Doctor

Lupus is complex to diagnose due to its vast range of symptoms therefore, no single test is used to diagnose lupus. A series of tests is performed to rule out the cause of lupus considering the signs and symptoms.

  • Medical history:

A doctor will ask you about your medical history, family history of lupus or other autoimmune disorder and from how long you have been facing the symptoms.

  • Blood tests:

The blood tests include; CBC (complete blood count), ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate, CRP (C-reactive protein test) and antinuclear antibody test (detect activity extent of immune system).

  • Urine test:

To detect increased levels of protein or blood in urine that will give an indication of affected kidneys.

  • Imaging tests:

Echocardiograms and chest X-rays indicate fluid buildup and swelling in or around your heart and lungs.

  • Tissue biopsy:

A tissue sample is cut from an area of lupus rash to find the cells with lupus e.g. kidney biopsy if kidney damage is detected previously.

Doctors to treat Lupus

Last updated on Saturday 29/10/2022


Dr. Uzma Rasheed

Rheumatologist | FCPS, FCPS(Medicine),

Maroof International HospitalRs 2500

Arthritis and Rheumatology ClinicRs 2500


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She is nice and friendly, given proper time and focus over the matter


Dr. Sadaf Noor

Rheumatologist | MBBS, FCPS, MD (Rheumatology)

Mumtaz HospitalRs 1000


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Highly Recommended


Dr. Muhammad Fahim

Rheumatologist | MBBS, FCPS

Al Safiya Medical and Diagnostic CentreRs 1500


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Highly Recommended

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