Who Discovered Lupus? What Does Lupus History Mean For Me?

Lupus Was First Identified Hundreds of Years Ago

Lupus causes a rash on the skin.
Lupus causes a rash on the skin.. Smith Collection/Getty Images

Who discovered lupus?

The history of lupus is divided into three periods:

  • Classical -- This period was marked by the first description of the cutaneous disorder; it is also when the term "lupus" was coined. Thirteenth Century physician Rogerius thought that facial lesions caused by the disease looked like wolf bites, hence the name "lupus" that means wolf in Latin.
  • Neoclassical -- This period began in 1872. This period is marked by the description of the disease’s systemic or disseminated manifestations, made by Moriz Kaposi, a student and son-in-law of the Austrian dermatologist Ferdinand von Hebra. Kaposi even made the claim that there were two forms of the disease -- what we know as systemic lupus erythematosus and discoid lupus. The systemic form was firmly established by physicians Osler and Jadassohn.
  • Modern -- This period was marked by the discovery of the LE cell in 1948, when researchers discovered these cells in the bone marrow of patients with acute disseminated lupus erythematosus.

Why the history of lupus is important to you?

This progression of discovery paved the way for the application of immunology to the study of lupus. Today's treatments are founded on these findings.

What is lupus?

Lupus refers to a family of autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), discoid (cutaneous) lupus, drug-induced lupus and neonatal lupus. Of these types, SLE has the highest overall prevalence.

Who develops lupus?

Lupus is more common among women and minorities than it is among men and whites. However, lupus can occur in all people regardless of gender, race, nationality or ethnicity.

In the United States depending on race, anywhere between 20 and 150 per 100,000 women develop lupus.

In the United States, lupus is most common among African Americans. Interestingly, the prevalence of lupus among Africans is much lower than African Americans.

How does lupus work?

Interactions between your genes and environment can result in lupus, or an abnormal immune reaction to your own body. With lupus, tissue-binding autoantibodies and immune complexes attack your cells and organs.

How is lupus diagnosed?

A diagnosis of lupus is based on an algorithm which includes clinical characteristics and laboratory testing.

Here are some clinical signs of lupus:

  • skin lesions
  • alopecia (a type of hair loss)
  • oral ulcers
  • synovitis (inflammation of the synovial membrane in joints)
  • neurological symptoms (seizures, psychosis and so forth)

Here are some laboratory and diagnostic findings that can be used to diagnose lupus:

  • blood tests (low white blood cell counts, low platelet counts and low red blood cell counts)
  • renal function tests
  • renal biopsy
  • urinalysis (looking for red blood cell casts)
  • immunological tests (think testing for antibodies like ANA, antiphospholipid, Anti-Sm and anti-dsDNA)

Source:

History of Lupus. Lupus Foundation of America. June 2008.

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