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Lupus – Skin Disease (Discoid) Essay

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Updated: Mar 30th, 2020

The human body is comprised of an array of organs and organ systems. All these organs need to work optimally to give the body ample functionality. The skin is a part of these organs. Similar to other organs of the human body, the skin’s functionality is liable for impairment by diseases. A case in point is Lupus. It affects the skin and by extension, the entire body.

Although most people choose to ignore diseases that affect the skin based on the notion that they do not have much of an effect on the body, it is important to point out that the optimal functionality of the skin is crucial to the overall wellbeing of the body. Therefore, the essay explores the pertinent aspects of discoid lupus erythematosus in a bid to develop a clear understanding of this disease about which little is known in the public domain.

Overview of Lupus

Lupus is a condition that occurs in people as an inflammatory reaction in the body. In the overall sense, it can affect various parts of the body, such as blood cells, kidneys, bones, and skin. The principle behind the operation of the disease is that it sets the body’s immune system against body organs.

It achieves this feat by catalyzing the deployment of the body’s defense mechanism against the target organ. For instance, when it affects the skin, the body’s immune system attacks the skin cells the same way it would attack pathogens that get into the body system. As a result, the target organ is damaged by the body’s immune system.

According to Sontheimer (2013), approximately two-thirds of the victims of Lupus end up with a skin disease called cutaneous lupus erythematosus. It manifests in the form of rashes or lesions that appear in sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the face. It is important to note that cutaneous lupus erythematosus can occur in three different forms.

These include acute cutaneous Lupus, subacute cutaneous Lupus, and chronic cutaneous Lupus. Chronic cutaneous Lupus is further subcategorized into three different forms, including discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), tumid Lupus, and lupus panniculitis (Eastham, 2013). Although there are some key features that distinguish these different forms of cutaneous Lupus, this essay focuses entirely on discoid lupus erythematosus.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

This disease causes photosensitive skin eruptions on its victims. Being photosensitive, it can affect sun-exposed body parts such as face, hands, and legs. However, it mostly affects the face and the head. Eastham (2013) notes that discoid lupus erythematosus is manifested by red, scaly, and thick disc-shaped lesions, which mostly appear on the scalp and the face.

The disease can occur as a localized infection or a widespread one, that affects several parts of the body simultaneously. Apart from sun-exposed body parts, discoid lupus erythematosus can affect the lips and the inside of the mouth (Sontheimer, 2013). Such infections cause ulcers inside the mouth.

The lesions that appear on the body as a result of discoid lupus erythematosus are usually painless and no to not cause itchiness (Eastham, 2013). However, some cases of painful lesions have also been reported (Panjwani, 2009). The lesions cause skin discoloration and scars in the long run. Further, they can promote the development of cancer, if left unattended for long (Sontheimer, 2013).

Unfortunately, this is usually the case because most people opt not to seek medication due to the mild demeanor of the disease. In some victims, it leads to permanent hair loss due to scarring of the scalp (Eastham, 2013). If left untreated, discoid lupus erythematosus moves from the skin into other organs within the body, hence turning into systemic lupus erythematosus.

Its mortality rates are relatively low, making its prognosis favorable. It mainly affects patients from a psychological point of view. The disfigurement that may occur if the condition is not promptly dealt with effects the quality of patients’ lives by causing image problems (Panjwani, 2009). However, prompt treatment of the disease can abate the disfigurement. The disease is exacerbated by exposure to sunlight.

It is associated with factors such as immune signaling and other environmental factors that instigate antibody secretion and the dysfunction of T-cells (Eastham, 2013). Information about the etiology of discoid lupus erythematosus is scanty. However, certain genetic predispositions are believed to be vulnerable to the disease. Research is ongoing to establish the genetic characteristics of individuals who are usually affected by the disease because the exact link between the disease and its victims remains elusive.

According to Eastham (2013), discoid lupus erythematosus represents between 50% and 85% of all cases of cutaneous lupus erythematosus across the world. It is reportedly two to three times more prevalent in women than men. Sontheimer (2013), on the other hand, notes that the prevalence of the disease is 17 to 48 per every 100,000 people worldwide. Statistics show that African Americans have registered more cases of the disease than Whites or Asians.

The disease is classified among the rare disease categories across the world. This classification is based on the guidelines used for categorizing diseases. Taking the U.S. as an example, discoid lupus erythematosus features among the rare diseases since it affects less than 200,000 of the U.S. population (Eastham, 2013).

Treatment for discoid lupus erythematosus still requires much research to guide practitioners on how to handle the disease better. A handful of clinical trials have been successfully carried out, but they do not provide adequate evidence to suggest the best way to treat the disease (Eastham, 2013). The treatment of this disease is often left in the hands of the dermatology department.

However, discoid lupus erythematosus victims would benefit more from a comprehensive analysis that incorporates the patient’s history, blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, midstream urine, and antinuclear antibody (Panjwani, 2009).

This review is important, because usually it is not expressly determinable if a patient has systemic Lupus or not, and the only way to find out is through a thorough examination. Further, since it is a disease that is known to be exacerbated by sunlight, patients should be advised to avoid the sun or use sunscreen.


Based on the issues that have been outlined in this essay, discoid lupus erythematosus occurs rarely, but it does exist and affects people across the world. The limited nature of information pertaining to the disease extends to the medical field too. Experts are yet to establish crucial information concerning its etiology and treatment.

However, the little that is known about the disease should act as a basis for further research, because it is important to find out how it motivates the immune system to attack body organs. Staying without this knowledge may turn out to be very costly to the human race if one day, the disease sets the immune system against the brain or the heart.


Eastham, A. B. (2013). . Web.

Panjwani, S. (2009). . The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 22(2), 206-213. Web.

Sontheimer, R. D. (2013). Web.

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