There are various types of lupus. Each type comes with its own symptoms and can affect different parts of the body.

Symptoms of lupus can be the same as many other conditions. This can often make diagnosis difficult.

The types of lupus include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), neonatal lupus, and drug-induced lupus.

This article explains the different types of lupus. It also goes over treatment options for the condition.

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Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases happen when the immune system of the body is unable to tell the difference between foreign invaders, such as viruses or bacteria, and its own healthy tissues. The immune system may attack healthy cells and organs in any part of the body, causing inflammation and other symptoms.

Around 1.5 million Americans have lupus. Some people call lupus “the great imitator,” as its symptoms are similar to many other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that lupus symptoms can range from mild to life threatening.

Learn more about lupus.

SLE is the most common type of lupus. Females between the ages of 15–44 are at the highest risk of developing SLE. However, it can affect people of all ages.

The exact causes of SLE are unknown. However, experts believe there may be a link between its development and genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors.

People with SLE can experience a range of symptoms that range in severity, including:

SLE can limit a person’s physical and mental functioning and impact their quality of life. Early diagnosis and treatment of lupus can help reduce the risk of complications and damage from the condition. It can also help improve a person’s quality of life.

Learn more about SLE.

CLE is a type of lupus that only affects the skin. It may be connected to SLE in various ways.

People with CLE may not experience additional symptoms of SLE. However, they may go on to develop SLE.

CLE can be divided into three subtypes, based on how it affects a person’s skin.

Acute cutaneous lupus

Acute cutaneous lupus is a skin rash that also occurs with other symptoms of lupus. It tends to come on quickly and typically does not last long.

Almost every person who experiences acute cutaneous lupus also has SLE. Acute cutaneous lupus is what causes the butterfly rash often seen across the nose and cheeks of a person with lupus. This is known as localized acute cutaneous lupus.

Generalized acute cutaneous lupus can cause a raised and discolored rash all over the body.

Chronic cutaneous lupus

There are various types of chronic cutaneous lupus. The main thing they have in common is the fact that they are long lasting. They can also all cause permanent scarring.

The most common type of chronic cutaneous lupus is discoid lupus. This type of cutaneous lupus causes a disc-shaped rash. It typically appears on the face and scalp but can affect all areas of the body.

Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE)

SCLE can cause a rash with red or discolored, ring-shaped sores or scaly patches. It typically appears on the chest, back, and arms. However, it can also extend down to the buttocks.

This rash does not generally scar, but it can leave the skin discolored. It can occur on its own or as a complication of SLE.

Learn more about cutaneous lupus.

Drug-induced lupus (DIL) is a phenomenon that occurs when a person experiences symptoms of SLE after using certain medications.

DIL is typically less severe than SLE, with symptoms dissipating after the discontinuation of the triggering medication. There are currently over 100 medications that experts have identified as potential triggers of DIL.

Around 6–12% of people with lupus have DIL. The most common symptom of DIL is a skin rash similar to what people see with SLE.

The symptoms of DIL typically go away after stopping the use of the medication that caused the condition.

Learn more about drug-induced lupus.

Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that presents at birth. It typically occurs due to specific antibodies that the pregnant person passes on to their infant. The pregnant person does not necessarily have lupus. Experts believe that the development of neonatal lupus may be due to genetic or environmental factors.

The most serious complication of neonatal lupus is congenital heart block. Congenital heart block is an interference of the heartbeat in the heart’s chambers from the top to the middle that controls the rate of the beats. The severity of this condition can vary from infant to infant.

The most common symptom of neonatal lupus is a skin rash, which resembles the rash usually associated with SLE. It is typically composed of red or discolored, ring-like skin lesions and is generally temporary. It most commonly appears on the face or scalp.

Most symptoms of neonatal lupus are transient, meaning they will eventually go away, often without treatment. However, the congenital heart block is a permanent condition.

Healthcare professionals recommend using protection from sun exposure for the infant. Topical treatments may also help with skin issues, such as a rash. If the infant experiences a heart block, they may require a pacemaker.

Learn more about neonatal lupus.

According to the CDC, lupus is a lifelong condition, meaning there is no cure for it. However, it is possible to manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups through lifestyle modifications and medications.

Medications for lupus include:

Doctors may also prescribe medications to treat other conditions that people with lupus commonly have, such as osteoporosis or hypertension.

Lifestyle modifications for lupus can include:

  • learning the signs of a flare
  • avoiding too much sun exposure
  • getting plenty of sleep and rest
  • keeping all appointments with healthcare professionals
  • taking all medications as directed
  • reaching out to a support system

Learn more about treating lupus.

The following are commonly asked questions about lupus.

How many different types of lupus are there?

There are four main types of lupus. The most common type is SLE.

What are the four types of lupus?

The four types of lupus include SLE, CLE, drug-induced lupus, and neonatal lupus.

What is lupus type 1 and 2?

According to a 2020 study, type 1 SLE consists of inflammation, such as rashes, nephritis, and arthritis. Type 2 SLE includes cognitive dysfunction, mood disturbances, fatigue, and muscle pain.

There are various types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus is the most common type and what most people are referring to when they use the term “lupus.”

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus is a form of lupus that only affects the skin. Subtypes of CLE can occur on their own or along with SLE.

Other types of lupus include drug-induced lupus and neonatal lupus.

There is no cure for lupus. However, doctors treat lupus with lifestyle changes and several medications to manage inflammation and other symptoms.