Neuropathic Itch Lupus Causes & Treatment: Nerve Damage Caused by Lupus

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Lupus is simply a broad term for a host of autoimmune diseases. When someone says lupus they are generally referring to the most common type; systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). With this type of lupus any part of the body can be affected, including the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS) which can cause neuropathic itch lupus symptoms.

Neuropathic itch related to lupus or just in general could start at any part along different pathways controlled by the central nervous system. Since lupus is an autoimmune disease, it can attack any part of the body. Lupus can damage the kidneys, lungs, heart, blood, blood vessels, brain and spinal cord. It can also cause damage to other parts of the body; the attacks are at random.

Those with lupus often suffer flare ups of their condition and then go into remission. Each patient is generally unique so the period of remission or flare up varies in duration. For some a flare up can include severe neuropathic itch. Learn What Causes the Symptoms of a Lupus Flare.

Why Lupus Causes Itching

Not all itching for lupus patients are caused by neuropathic itch. For many patients photosensitivity can cause itchy rashes to form. Inflammation caused by the disease can also cause burning and itching.

Lupus attacks healthy cells and can destroy skin tissue and cause nerve damage. This nerve damage can result in neuropathic itch. The most common areas of the body that a neuropathic itch occurs are generally to the arms, hands, legs, and feet. This is generally when the peripheral nervous system has been affected by the attack of lupus. Read an Overview of the Pathophysiology of Systemic Lupus.

Neuropathic itch usually occurs as a result of the pathology of the autoimmune disease itself. Various nerves can be attacked by the antibodies and result in nerve damage; usually peripheral nerve damage that can start at any point of the nerve pathway. Damaged nerves can cause neuropathic pain and neuropathic itch symptoms.

The sensory pathways of the peripheral nerves are affected and the patient with lupus begins to feel the itching sensation begin. Often the sensation is severe and the will not to scratch is weakened and almost unbearable.

Treatments for Neuropathic Itch

There is no cure for lupus itself, only medications, treatments, and lifestyle changes to alleviate or tone down some of the symptoms. The same is true for neuropathic itch. Generally a person who experiences itching can take an antihistamine to alleviate the symptoms - this does not work for neuropathic itch because it is not an allergic reaction but a neurological complication caused by some kind of damage to the nerves.

Corticosteroid such as Prednisone is used in general for patients of lupus when they have flare ups. Some patients report some relief from the itching with the Prednisone - others report no relief from the itching with this medication.

Another type of medication is in the class of Antimalarials. This type of medication is for joint and skin conditions caused by lupus. The main medication generally prescribed is Plaquenil. The issue with this medication is it can take many months before the medication begins to work effectively for the patient.

The treatment options for lupus are limited and the relief from neuropathic itch lupus symptoms is even more limited. More research and studies are already underway to find an appropriate and effective treatment for lupus patients. Some people with lupus may wish to try alternative remedies that include herbal remedies. Some of the medications commonly prescribed for lupus may be contraindicated with herbal remedies, speak with your doctor before trying any complimentary treatments for neuropathic itch caused by lupus.


Types of Peripheral Neuropathy - Inflammatory

How Lupus Can Affect the Nervous System

Lupus Foundation of Colorado

Lupus site (SLE) - information on systemic lupus

Lupus & the itching