Discoid lupus is a form of lupus erythematosus. Because it is an autoimmune disease, it causes the body to produce antibodies to healthy tissues. These antibodies attack normal organs and tissues, causing damage that produces many of the symptoms of lupus.
Signs & Symptoms
This condition affects the skin, producing sores that cause inflammation and scarring. These sores are often found on the face and scalp, but can form anywhere on the body. Discoid lupus lesions are red, inflamed patches that look crusty. The center of a lesion is usually lighter than the outer edges of the sore. If these lesions appear on the scalp or other hairy areas of the body, the scarring can cause hair loss.
Types of Lesions
Cutaneous lupus is classified as acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (LE), subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, or chronic cutaneous LE. Acute cutaneous LE presents as a malar rash (butterfly rash) that appears on the face. Subacute cutaneous LE is psoriasiform, annular, or some combination of each. Psoriasiform lesions look like psoriasis and usually appear on the knees. Annular lesions usually appear on the chest. They are symmetrical and very sensitive to the sun. People who have annular lesions are at a higher risk for developing systemic lupus. Discoid lupus is the common form of chronic cutaneous lupus. This condition causes scaly lesions to form, creating a large, scarring plaque. This plaque causes skin atrophy or skin loss. Hair loss occurs if these lesions appear on the scalp or beard area.
Discoid Lupus and Fatigue
Discoid lupus causes symptoms other than skin lesions. Discoid lupus and fatigue are closely related, as people with discoid lesions can also experience systemic lupus. Systemic lupus also causes chronic pain and inflammation, fever, weight gain, weight loss, mouth sores, shortness of breath, dry eyes, chest pain, anxiety, easy bruising, memory loss and depression.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Laboratory testing is an important part of diagnosing lupus. Urinalysis looks for casts and protein that are indicative of lupus. Complete blood count (CBC) identifies low hemoglobin, platelet and white blood cell counts. Serum creatinine levels determine how well the kidneys are functioning. Chest x-ray is used to determine the presence of pleural effusion, which is one of the diagnostic criteria for lupus.
Corticosteroids and anti-malarial drugs treat the symptoms of lupus and may prevent flares of the disorder. Cytotoxic agents can be used when the lupus is resistant to steroids or the kidneys and central nervous system are involved in the disorder. These drugs are often given along with high-dose steroids.Laboratory testing is an important part of diagnosing lupus. Urinalysis looks for casts and protein that are indicative of lupus. Complete blood count (CBC) identifies low hemoglobin, platelet and white blood cell counts. Serum creatinine levels determine how well the kidneys are functioning. Chest x-ray is used to determine the presence of pleural effusion, which is one of the diagnostic criteria for lupus.
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: Discoid Lupus Erythematosus. Accessed December 30, 2009.
Mayo Clinic: Lupus – Causes. Accessed December 30, 2009.
Hospital for Special Surgery: Lupus and the Skin: Manifestations, Causes, Treatments, and Research Horizons. Accessed December 30, 2009.