This is a rare form of temporary lupus that affects a fetus or newborn (usually coming to the fore in the first few months of life). It occurs when the mother’s autoantibodies are passed to her child in utero. These autoantibodies can affect the skin, heart, and/or blood of the baby. Neonatal lupus sometimes appears as a rash developing soon after birth and can last several months before disappearing. It is not a permanent condition, but half of all babies born with neonatal lupus may present with a heart condition – one that is permanent, but treatable with a pacemaker.
Only about 1% of infants who receive positive maternal autoantibodies will develop neonatal lupus, and females more often than males. According to different reports, there is an 18% to 25% chance, however, that siblings born after an infant with neonatal lupus will also develop the disease. Mothers could also develop systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) later in life, usually what’s referred to as an atypical rather and classic form of SLE.
Skin rashes :
Nearly 75% of babies with neonatal lupus will have skin rashes at birth. The following 25% will break out typically within two to five months. Sun exposure tends to precipitate the outbreak, as well.
Rashes, on average, will disappear at about six months or soon after, as the mothers autoantibodies disappear from the infant.
Treatment for skin lesions is typically no more than ointments to help relieve the severity of the breakouts.
These pictures of infants with neonatal lupus demonstrates what neonatal lupus sink rashes look like.
Heart disease :
Congenital complete heart block is the most common cardiac rhythm abnormality that presents itself with neonatal lupus infants. This occurs around 15% to 30% of the time, and can be detected as early as the 18th week of pregnancy.
SLE later in life:
Fortunately, infants born with neonatal lupus are not at an increased risk of developing SLE later in life. However, if the mother has SLE, she is more likely to develop some form of autoimmune disease later in life, though not necessarily SLE.
Sources: Neonatal Lupus Erythematosus by Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH, Professor and Head of Dermatology, Professor of Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics, Professor of Pathology, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School.