Lupus can affect the skin (skin lesions and painful nodules that appear as raised bruises) as well as joints (fingers, hands, wrists and knees). File Picture: Pexels
1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

The most common and serious form. The disease might affect several body systems which is why it’s called “systemic”. It’s also known as the “great imitator” because it mimics other illnesses. Lupus can affect the skin (skin lesions and painful nodules that appear as raised bruises), joints (fingers, hands, wrists and knees), kidneys, lungs, heart and the central nervous system.

SLE symptoms come and go and vary in severity. Some sufferers develop a rash over the cheeks and across the bridge of nose in a butterfly shape.

2. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)

The most common form of chronic (long-term) cutaneous lupus erythematosus, mainly presents itself as a dermatological disease that is noticeable from hyperpigmentation. Exposure to the sun might trigger DLE thus making patients photosensitive. The rash may be red, flat or raised, and can appear scaly.

It can also evolve into a larger misfiguring rash. DLE causes a thick scaly rash on the face, neck and scalp and does not itch. After the rash subsides, it leaves scarring on the face and scalp which can lead to hair loss.

3. Drug-induced lupus erythematosus (DILE)

This lupus is rare and is caused by taking certain prescription drugs for a long time such as soniazid, hydralazine and procainamide. Signs and symptoms usually disappear after stopping the drug. Signs and symptoms are joint pain (arthralgia) and muscle pain (myalgia), fatigue, inflammation of the heart (pericarditis) and lung (pleuritis) anti-histone antibodies. If symptoms are ignored they can lead to harsher symptoms and, in some cases, death.

4. Neonatal lupus erythematosus (NLE)

A mother with certain kinds of lupus antibodies (Ro and La) transfers them to her child during pregnancy. The foetus is unable to form antibodies on its own and can’t defend itself against viruses or bacteria, so it depends on maternal antibodies.

The placenta cannot distinguish between antibodies and autoantibodies. In neonatal lupus the attacks are mostly targeted at the heart tissue. Symptoms are congenital heart block, skin, liver abnormalities, low blood counts and skin rash triggered by sun exposure.

If a patients has some of the symptoms mentioned, they should get professional help to check for liver abnormalities, low white blood cells and platelets. Some of the symptoms might not be permanent.