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Many people know what lupus is and have a general idea of what it involves. However, there are multiple different types of lupus. This adds an additional complication when dealing with any case of lupus. 

This article will cover four types of lupus. It will also explore how various lupus-related skin conditions fall into their own categories. 

1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus. In fact, it is so common that around 70% of all lupus cases are SLE. 

The symptoms and effects of SLE are the ones most people associate with lupus in general. It is an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system operates incorrectly. This causes it to identify healthy tissue wrongly and, after doing so, attack it. 

These attacks often lead to the inflammation of organs and organ systems. This can include swelling in the kidneys, brain, nervous system, etc. Depending on the impacted area, the systems will be different. For example, kidney swelling can interfere with the body’s waste disposal system, while swelling in the brain can cause mental issues. 

In many cases, SLE results in a rash as well. This will be alongside other symptoms. 

2. Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus

Rashes are common in systemic lupus erythematosus. However, with that type of lupus, these rashes appear alongside other conditions. Meanwhile, cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) is a type of lupus where the impacts are confined to the skin. Other symptoms that are associated with lupus are not present in CLE. 

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3. Drug-Induced Lupus

Drug-induced lupus is exactly what it sounds like. It is a form of lupus that doesn’t happen naturally but, instead, is caused by using a certain medication. These medications include hydralazine, procainamide, and isoniazid. 

However, this form of lupus doesn’t appear overnight with the use of these drugs. It can take months or even years to use these medications before symptoms appear. Then, after the medication is stopped, the symptoms will often persist for several months. 

This type of lupus can end up looking a lot like SLE. This means it usually comes with swelling, muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, and fever symptoms. However, unlike SLE, drug-induced lupus doesn’t usually cause problems with major organs. 

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4. Neonatal Lupus

Neonatal lupus is technically not a type of lupus on its own. It doesn’t involve the body’s immune system attacking itself. Instead, one person’s immune system is impacting another’s. 

In some cases, when the autoantibodies from the mother are passed to the fetus, they create this problem. So, it isn’t the baby’s immune system but the mother’s that causes the condition. This is more common in babies whose mothers have lupus themselves but does not occur in every case where the mother has lupus. 

Symptoms are generally mild, including a skin rash, low blood cell counts, and liver problems. Most of these disappear over a few months, leaving a few lasting problems. However, a congenital heart block is also possible. This is a serious and potentially deadly condition that must be treated with care. 

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A baby with their mouth open laying with a bear toy

Lupus Skin Conditions

Like allergies, eczema, and other conditions like psoriasis, lupus causes skin problems. Most forms of lupus have the potential to do this. The exact nature of these rashes gives further categories to the main types of lupus. The rashes are separated into categories of their own, which can then occur in the different types of lupus. 

Chronic Cutaneous Lupus

With this type of lupus, the effects last for long periods of time. They may even last an individual’s entire life. 

The most common type of chronic cutaneous lupus is discoid lupus. With this condition, disk-shaped rashes appear on the scalp or face. These rashes are often red and raised and can even be scaly. 

When they are around for long periods of time, these rashes can create health problems. They can leave scars, create skin discoloration, and lead to hair loss. Some serious and rare cases can even end up leading to cancer. 

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Subacute Cutaneous Lupus

With subacute cutaneous lupus, the rashes are also circular and can potentially cause skin discoloration, like discoid lupus. However, this is where the similarities end. 

Subacute cutaneous lupus results in a rash of scaly, red, and ring-shaped patches. These often appear on the chest, back, and arm but can extend past these points slightly in less common cases. 

Another difference is in the cause. Subacute cutaneous lupus can be triggered by sunlight or smoking. Medications like certain blood pressure and antacid medications can also cause it. In cases where medications cause it, the condition may go away once the person stops taking it, though it can take months or even years. 

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Acute Cutaneous Lupus

This form of lupus only takes place alongside other lupus symptoms. So, in almost all cases, it is seen with SLE. 

With acute cutaneous lupus, the rash appears quickly and tends to leave relatively quickly as well. It may cause some skin discoloration but usually isn’t around long enough to lead to scarring.

The rash itself tends to form on the sides of the nose, forming a shape that looks somewhat like a butterfly. Because of this, many people refer to this as a “butterfly rash.” A rash like this tends to occur in around 30% of people with SLE. 

However, this rash doesn’t have to form in this way. Many people experience it as a rash that covers somewhat random parts all over their bodies. 

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Other Skin Conditions

The skin conditions listed above are the most common. However, there are many other ways lupus causes problems for the skin. This can cause lupus rashes to be confused with other conditions, like allergies or eczema. The wide-ranging possibilities can result in many possible visuals and don’t necessarily have to follow any specific pattern. 

On top of this, identifying skin conditions related to lupus is often more difficult in patients with darker skin. This makes it similar to identifying other medical issues, which often face the same systemic challenges. 

A person putting cream on their hands against a yellow background

Understanding Lupus Types

Lupus comes in a few different forms. Even these forms have different ways in which they can present. Knowing and understanding these are valuable in identifying and treating these conditions. 

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