3 years ago

written by David Hensley, MD

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling and inflammation of the skin, with a wide variety of symptoms that usually begins in early adulthood. Lupus can affect multiple organs and systems in your body. Your immune system attacks cells, triggering a range of signs and symptoms that something is wrong.

One of the organs affected by lupus is your skin, your body’s largest organ. Your skin is known as cutaneous lupus. Cutaneous means “relating to or affecting the skin.” People with this disease experience a flare-up of symptoms followed by periods of remission. Due to intermittent flare-ups, Lupus can be misdiagnosed for years. However, one of the most telling signs of lupus is when your skin pigmentation on your head, hands, and the inside of your mouth begins to change in color accompanied by a persistent rash. Don’t be alarmed as there is a wide variety of rashes that are not lupus. The key is to connect with a board-certified Dermatologist or Rheumatologist to have you correctly diagnosed and treated. 

What Are The Skin Manifestations Of Lupus?

  1. Acute Cutaneous – Photosensitive Malar Rash – Appears as a flattened area of red skin on your face, resembling a sunburn and across the bridge of your nose including both cheeks. This rash is also known as the “butterfly rash.”  Rashes can also form on your arms, legs, and other parts of your body. 
  2. Chronic Cutaneous –Discoid Lesion– Appear as disk-shaped, round lesions. The sores usually appear on your scalp and face but can occur elsewhere also. 

Diagnosing Lupus

lupus-dermatology-skin-manifestations-dallas-fort-worth-top10md-blogDiagnosis can be complicated at best.  Your doctor will take a complete medical history and a history of your symptoms, lab testing, and other tests for proper diagnosis. Once you get a correct diagnosis, you can move forward with the right treatments to control not just the number of outbreaks you have but the symptoms too.

Your dermatologist or rheumatologist will take tissue(s) sample for examination under a microscope to determine if cutaneous lupus is present. There are warning signs, and if you are a woman between the ages of 18-50, it is well worth it to follow your impulse to get tested. Two out of three people with lupus observe the disease having some type of effect on their skin, and nearly 70% of people find their disease is made worse by UV ray exposure, whether through sunlight or artificial light. When the skin becomes affected, it causes lesions that mostly appear in sun-exposed areas of your body.  If you experience “come-and-go” symptoms of rashes on your face and hands, patchy hair loss, non-healing wounds, and ulcerations in your mouth, you may be experiencing it manifesting through your skin, or cutaneous lupus erythematosus. The fact is, however, that the severity of your skin does not point to the amount of systemic lupus happening on the inside of your body. Much like cancer or other autoimmune diseases, it operates on a spectrum.

Schedule an appointment today with a Top10MD Dermatologist or Rheumatologist today. Let’s get this figured out so you can get back to doing what you do best, being you!


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