DISCOID LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS
This patient information on Discoid Lupus Erythematosus is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) is a peculiar disorder of the skin. It can occur at any age, but it is more commonly seen in adults. Typically the disorder appears as an eruption on the sun exposed areas of the body (face, back of hands, arms and upper chest). In many people the condition will get worse after exposure to the sun. Severe cases of DLE heal with scarring, and if the scalp is involved it may cause permanent hair loss. Although Discoid Lupus Erythematosus is generally limited just to the skin, a small percentage of patients may go on to develop internal involvement. Internal involvement is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and is considered much more serious.
What causes it? I and many other skin specialists believe that Discoid Lupus Erythematosus is a type of autoimmune disease of the skin. For some reason (perhaps damage to the skin by sunlight) your body's immune system makes a mistake and thinks parts of your skin are foreign invaders. Your immune system begins to attack the skin causing the DLE. What turns this attack on and off is unknown.
Is it dangerous? Discoid Lupus is generally not life threatening, but it can cause severe disfigurement in a few individuals. In some, the immune system attacks not only the skin but other organs as well and this can be more serious. I will do special tests to check for involvement of internal organs. Fortunately, most people with DLE have only skin involvement.
Can it be cured? The treatment program I put you on will help control or clear the disorder, but it is not a cure. Even if the disorder is totally cleared, you will still be predisposed to have repeat episodes. Most people with Discoid Lupus Erythematosus will require some form of treatment for many years.
Will it spread? New areas of involvement may continue to form. Treatment may help to prevent or control further spread.
Is it contagious? it is not contagious and you cannot "catch it" from anyone.