Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and serious form of lupus. It is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack its own healthy cells and tissues, resulting in skin damage. There may be damaging antibodies as well as direct tissue attack by T-lymphocyte blood cells. SLE most often causes damage to the skin, heart, joints, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and nervous system. In some cases, this condition can be fatal. The symptoms for SLE can vary from person to person. This form of lupus can also involve many other organs, which can make it sometimes difficult to diagnose correctly. SLE typically affects more women than men. Many cases have mild symptoms and maybe only skin involvement. Although there is no definitive cure, there are a variety of treatment options available.
Common symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus include:
- Butterfly shaped rash over the bridge of the nose, which may be confused with rosacea
- Joint pain
- Low-grade fever
- Fatigue Hair loss
- Organ inflammation (kidneys, lungs, heart)
- Muscle inflammation
- Lesions that have a scaly or crusty appearance in discoid lupus
- Sun exposure can often trigger rashes and worsen other symptoms.
The exact cause of systemic lupus erythematosus is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune deficiency in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue. Factors such as sun exposure and smoking may contribute to the development of lesions.
Good skin care and sun protection is important for maintaining healthy skin. Considering sun exposure is a trigger for the development and progression of lesions, look for moisturizers that contain UV filters, which can offer additional safeguards against UV radiation. Apply these frequently and generously, to adequately hydrate and protect the skin. Use gentle cleansers that are fragrance and allergen-free to avoid irritating lesions.
If you spend time outdoors, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Limit sun exposure: Reducing your time in the sun is perhaps the easiest way to avoid damage to your skin caused by UV rays. When outdoors, set a time limit and seek shade when necessary. Also keep in mind that UV radiation is the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Use Sunscreen: Sunscreens are an essential part of protection against the sun. Look for sunscreens labeled “Broad Spectrum”. They are often the most effective and offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply generously and frequently.
Cover and protect:Wrap-around sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and clothing that covers your arms and legs, can offer extra protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and sulindac are helpful in reducing inflammation and pain in muscles, joints, and other tissues. Daily sunscreen use can help reduce the chances of developing lesions.Look for sunscreens that contain Benzophenone, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide. Make sure your sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. These will be simply labeled “broad spectrum”.
A doctor may prescribe topical or oral corticosteroids to treat inflammation. Hydroxychloroquine is also sometimes used to treat the skin and arthritis symptoms. Other immunosuppressive drugs may be required.