What is Lupus Rash?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Lupus rash can refer to a classic rash that tends to appear on the face, and may be called a butterfly rash. Alternately, it is one of the many skin rashes that are common with the condition lupus, an autoimmune disease. In most people who have lupus the skin is particularly affected, and a number of rashes can develop that make this disease more challenging.

The butterfly rash or classic lupus rash is called so because it has a somewhat butterfly shape in appearance. It usually occurs on the nose, the butterfly body, and spreads over the cheeks, the wings. This form of lupus rash is also called acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus. It often occurs after exposure to sunlight, and the rash may be flat or raised. Most often it is flat and discoloration of the skin occurs so that it looks reddened. This rash may come and go, and usually avoiding sun exposure can help it heal, but it can leave behind discoloration of the skin, depending upon how long the rash was present.

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Sometimes people get a lupus rash called subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus. Instead of spreading across the face, this rash can occur on a single area, and have a circular shape. The rash is often a result of sunlight exposure, and produces bumps that may become scaly. Alternately a more severe form of lupus rash can develop that is somewhat similar to chicken pox. Bumps formed after exposure to sunlight are actually blisters, and this is called bullous lupus erythematosus.

One form of lupus tends to affect only the skin, instead of affecting the other systems in the body. This is known as discoid lupus, and it can result in more severe skin reactions, though in general discoid lupus is a less severe form of disease. However, rash is certainly more uncomfortable, and scars occurs more readily. Types of rash associated with this condition are thick and easy to see, and they can be itchy. They can occur on any part of the body, and may cause permanent skin discoloration and scarring. The rash can also result in hair loss if it occurs on the scalp.

There are a number of treatments for lupus rash, which may depend upon type of rash. Sometimes topical steroids help resolve rashes, and other times people will require oral or injected steroids to bring the rash under control. Some types of quinine found in most anti-malarial drugs have also been shown beneficial in the treatment of some of the skin irritations that lupus can cause.

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anon177712
Post 3

Sorry to hear about your butterfly rash which is a nuisance. I have all of the symptoms of Lupus SLE, including other auto-immune diseases (Sjogrens syndrome, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia etc) and the rash is dreadful.

When I first approached the GP he took one look and said 'lupus'! However the blood tests keep coming back negative leaving me in limbo. The rheumatologist says the butterfly rash is photosensitivity and it is treated by using factor 50 suncream together with steroid cream. The doctor will prescribe steroid cream for the outbreaks if you approach him together with something like Epaderm. They won't prescribe the lupus medication without a positive ANA blood test, which is a problem with the many of us who don't test positive but have all of the symptoms. Hope this helps you. --Feline

nanny3
Post 2

Is this butterfly rash one of the first signs of lupus or can there be other causes of it?

I have been getting a rash across my face, and it does get worse when I’m in the sun. I thought it was rosacea and just overlooked it.

Now I’m afraid that it could be a more serious symptom of a really bad disorder. I’m a little afraid to call up my doctor and say something like, “Hey. Yeah, I’ve got this rash and think I might have lupus. Can you work me in sometime today?”

They’d probably scorn me out of the building.

dimpley
Post 1

I have a friend whose mother noticed this lupus rash, or butterfly rash, on her face and that is what prompted her to go to the doctor.

She was a nurse, and had been feeling a little ‘under the weather’ for a while, but was trying to attribute it to stress and fatigue. She will now tell you that she was in denial.

But apparently seeing this rash (a well known symptom of lupus) blooming across her face was what pushed her to see a physician and seek help for a very serious illness.

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