Lupus :: An Historical Aspect

The source of the name “lupus” is unclear. All explanations originate with the characteristic butterfly-shaped malar rash that the disease classically exhibits across the nose and cheeks.

In various accounts, some doctors thought the rash resembled a wolf pattern.

In other accounts doctors thought that the rash, which was often more severe in earlier centuries, created lesions that resembled wolf bites or scratches.

Stranger still, is the account that the term “Lupus” didn’t come from latin at all, but from the term for a French style of mask which women reportedly wore to conceal the rash on their faces.

The history of lupus erythematosus can be divided into three periods:
– the classical,
– neoclassical, and
– modern

The classical period began when the disease was first recognised in the Middle Ages and saw the description of the dermatological manifestation of the disorder. The term lupus is attributed to the twelfth century physician Rogerius, who used it to describe the classic malar rash.

The neoclassical period was heralded by Moritz Kaposi’s recognition in 1872 of the systemic manifestations of the disease.

The modern period began in 1948 with the discovery of the LE cell (although use of these cells as diagnostic indicators has now been largely abandoned) and is characterised by advances in our knowledge of the pathophysiology and clinical-laboratory features of the disease, as well as advances in treatment.

Useful medication for the disease was first found in 1894, when quinine was first reported as an effective therapy. Four years later, the use of salicylates in conjuction with quinine was noted to be of still greater benefit. This was the best available treatment to patients until the middle of the twentieth century when Hench discovered the efficacy of corticosteroids in the treatment of SLE.

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