What’s to Know about Lupus Skin Disease?

What is lupus skin disease?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system mistakes the body’s own tissues as foreign invaders and attacks them.

Skin disease in lupus, also known as cutaneous lupus, can cause rashes or sores on sun-exposed areas of skin, including the face, neck, ears, arms, and legs.


What are the types of cutaneous lupus?

There are three types of cutaneous lupus:

  • Chronic cutaneous lupus (discoid lupus)

Chronic cutaneous lupus, also called discoid lupus, often appears on the scalp and face as red disk-shaped or round lesions. Normally, the lesions are photosensitive and don’t itch or hurt. They may cause scars and skin color changes (lighter and/or darker) over time. Besides, lesions on the scalp may cause permanent hair loss.

Discoid lesions can develop into cancer if they exist for quite a long time. If you suffer with discoid lupus, you should consult your doctor for more advice.

  • Subacute cutaneous lupus

Subacute cutaneous lupus often appears on the sun-exposed areas of the neck, arms, shoulders, and other parts of the body as red scaly skin with distinct edges or red, ring-shaped lesions. The lesions are photosensitive and don’t itch or hurt. They can also cause skin color changes but don’t leave scars.

  • Acute cutaneous lupus

Acute cutaneous lupus lesions often appear on the face as a malar rash–flattened area of red skin. The lesions are photosensitive and look like a sunburn. Usually they can cause skin color changes but don’t leave scars.

In addition, if the rash appears on both cheeks and across the bridge of the nose in the shape of a butterfly, that is called “butterfly rash.”

Can cutaneous lupus lead to other problems?

Generally, people with cutaneous lupus may suffer with following conditions:

  • Calcinosis
  • Hair loss
  • Cutaneous vasculitis lesions
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Livedo reticularis
  • Palmar erythema
  • Mucosal ulcerations
  • Petechiae


How to treat cutaneous lupus?

The treatment for cutaneous lupus varies from type to type. In general, it can be treated by medications, and common medications include:

  • Steroid cream or gel.
  • Liquid steroids (directly inject into the lesions)
  • Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic)
  • Pimecrolimus cream (Elidel)
  • Thalidomide (Thalomid)

How to prevent cutaneous lupus?

There are two main methods to prevent cutaneous lupus:

  • Avoid or protect yourself from sunlight and artificial ultraviolet light
  • Apply sunscreens

Keywords: cutaneous lupus; types cutaneous lupus; treat cutaneous lupus; prevent cutaneous lupus

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.