In the U.S., approximately one in two people have a chronic illness and more than 96 percent of those diseases are classified as an invisible illness.
Lupus has been classified as an invisible disease since many of its symptoms are invisible and mask other illnesses. Diagnosing lupus can be difficult since no single test can show whether a person has it. Also, many lupus patients are misdiagnosed.
Lupus generally affects women between the ages 15-45 and women of color are two to three times more likely to develop lupus. Rare cases of lupus can occur in men and babies.
According to the Lupus Foundation, 1.5 million Americans have lupus. There are four types of lupus:
• Discoid or cutaneous (skin) lupus erythematosus
• Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
• Drug-induced erythematosus
• Neonatal lupus
Discoid or cutaneous lupus refers to symptoms affecting the skin. This form of lupus is typically limited to the skin. However, approximately 10 percent of people who have discoid lupus may develop SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus).
The discoid lupus rash has many various forms. The rash appears on areas of the skin which are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent light. The rash may appear on the scalp, neck or face. Also, it may appear in the nose, mouth or vagina. Other symptoms of discoid lupus include change in skin pigment or color and hair loss.
The discoid rash is non-itchy, raised and scaly. The rash can resemble small circles or disks. Another common form is the butterfly rash. This rash is over the cheeks and across the bridge of the nose.
There is no known cure for discoid lupus. However, discoid lupus symptoms are manageable with corticosteroids or antimalarials. Also, your doctor may prescribe a topical corticosteroid cream.
One common treatment is prednisone. Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid drug and works very fast. However, this effective anti-inflammatory agent is a double-edged sword as it has some side effects. Some effects include weight gain, increase facial hair (chin and lip) or hair thinning, acne, mood swings and difficulty concentrating. Another side effect is called mooning which is a temporary weight gain in the cheeks and over the back of the neck.
Patients with discoid lupus can have a high quality of life by managing their treatment and symptoms. Also, it is very important not to stop treatment without consulting your doctor first.