August 03, 2011

Lupus and the Skin

Approximately two-thirds of people with lupus will develop some type of skin disease. Skin disease in lupus can cause rashes or sores (lesions), most of which will appear on sun-exposed areas, such as your face, ears, neck, arms, and legs.

Lupus skin disease, called cutaneous lupus erythematosus, can occur in one of three forms: chronic cutaneous (discoid) lupus erythematosus, subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, and acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus.
  • Cutaneous lupus: appears as disk-shaped, round lesions.
  • Subacute cutaneous lesions may appear as areas of red scaly skin with distinct edges, or as red, ring-shaped lesions. The lesions occur most commonly on the sun-exposed areas of your arms, shoulders, neck, and body.
  • Acute cutaneous lupus lesions occur when your systemic lupus is active. The most typical form of acute cutaneous lupus is a malar rash.

Lupus skin rashes and lesions should be treated by a dermatologist, a physician who specializes in caring for the skin. To determine whether a lesion or rash is due to cutaneous lupus, your physician will usually want to look at the tissue under a microscope. The medication used to treat lupus-related skin conditions depends on what kind of cutaneous lupus you have. The most common treatments are ointments, such as steroid cream or gel.

Learn more about skin and lupus on the LFA website.

More resources:

15 Questions with Dr. Victoria Werth - The Mysterious Aspects of Skin Lupus
"Your Skin & Lupus" Chat Transcript for Dr. Andrew Franks
Research Summaries about Cutaneous Lupus
From Lupus Now Magazine - COLOR MATTERS: People of color may suffer more from lupus skin lesions

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