Living with Lupus: Neonatal lupus is a rare condition that affects infants of women who have lupus. With proper testing, physicians can identify most at-risk mothers, and the infant can be successfully treated before or at birth.
Only one in every 20,000 children is born with or develops neonatal lupus. It can show up in a newborn baby within the first six months after birth, due to lupus antibodies that have crossed over the placental barrier from the mother to her unborn baby and remain in the babies blood for months. These antibodies last for up to several months, and can induce lupus in the baby until they die off.
One of the most serious complications of neonatal lupus is seen in children who have congenital heart block. The condition may not be evident until a child is older and becomes more athletic. Other potentially serious complications of neonatal lupus can affect the liver, kidneys or central nervous system of a newborn.
Babies with neonatal lupus do not necessarily grow up to have lupus, and in many instances after the antibodies received from the mother die off, the signs and symptoms of neonatal lupus are alleviated in the child. Some damage can remain in the child if vital organs are seriously impacted without the intervention of adequate treatment for the lupus, but usually the lingering effects of neonatal lupus are minimal and the child has few medically significant problems that extend beyond infancy.
Most neonatal lupus that shows up as cutaneous lupus rashes leaves little or no scarring after the lupus is no longer active in the child, since most forms of cutanous lupus do not tend to scar after healing and are much less serious than other forms of lupus without organ involvement. However, some patients experience pigmentation changes in skin where cutaneus lupus was active.