Lupus Rash: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

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Lupus Rash: Symptoms and TreatmentsWhat Is Lupus Rash? If you’ve noticed the appearance of a rash on your face, scalp, upper chest, neck, forearms or hands, it could be lupus rash. Lupus rash is a physical symptom of lupus, an autoimmune disease affecting an estimated 1.5 million Americans. And although lupus has no cure, there are various forms of lupus rash treatments.

One of the more common areas for lupus rash to appear is across the face. Also called butterfly rash or malar rash, the marking spans from cheek to cheek across the nose. The pattern can resemble a butterfly, which explains why it’s referred to as such.

The rash can vary in color, feel and consistency, and about 40% of people with lupus get it. Lupus rash is not permanent and can appear during flare-ups.

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is a condition that causes an immune system disorder, resulting in immune cells to attack healthy tissues. When this happens, people with the condition experience inflammation, tissue damage and in some cases, rashes or pain.

There are various types of lupus and they affect different people in a multitude of ways. There are cases when the most severe symptom may be some slight periodic skin blemishes. Other people may experience joint pain, while others with more severe cases may experience damage to vital organs like the heart and kidneys.

It’s quite common for people to have lupus for years before they ever see symptoms, and the symptoms are often difficult to diagnose because they mimic other conditions. The only way to determine whether or not you’ve got lupus is through a series of lab tests. Lupus is more common in women than men, and most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40. African-American, Latino and Asian women are also more susceptible than Caucasians.

There are two main types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common and severe, and it affects joint pain, inflammation, skin rashes and vital organs. Discoid lupus, also called cutaneous lupus erythematosus is limited to the skin and does not cause any internal organ damage.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus Rash

Just like the condition itself, there are varying degrees of severity when it comes to a lupus rash. On some people, the rash can be hardly recognizable, while on others it is uncomfortable and distinct. There are various factors that can result in rash development, and different treatments that you can try. First, let’s take a look at the different types of lupus rash you may experience:

  • Discoid lupus rash: Also called “chronic cutaneous lupus,” a discoid lupus rash is prominent. It can occur anywhere on the body, but is most common on the face and scalp. These rashes are typically scaly and itchy, and after the rash has disappeared it can leave permanent scarring or discoloration. If it was situated on the scalp, there may be some permanent hair loss caused by follicle damage.
  • Acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus: This is the type of rash that’s usually signified by the “butterfly” lupus rash. It leaves no permanent scarring when it disappears and it only really presents itself during flare-ups. It may be worsened by sunlight exposure or exposure to artificial UV rays.
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus: This type of lupus rash appears on areas that get a lot of sun exposure. They are relatively small, circular patches that don’t scar.
  • Bullous lupus erythematosus: This lupus rash is marked by the development of fluid-filled blisters on areas of the skin directly exposed to sunlight.

How to Treat Lupus Rash

Because there is no cure for lupus, the best thing you can do is try to find the most effective treatment to treat your lupus rash. The severity and type of lupus will also make a difference in your treatment plan the options that are most closely worth exploring. As far as treating rashes go, there are a number of different treatment options available that are both natural and pharmaceutical in nature:

  • Protect your skin: Because sun and artificial UV exposure are big catalysts for flare-ups, making sure you protect your skin from sun exposure is central in preventing and treating lupus rash flare-ups. When you’re out in the sun be sure to apply a high SPF sunscreen, wear a hat and keep your limbs covered.
  • Keep stress in check: Keeping stress in check can also be a major help in treating lupus. Because lupus is essentially an overstimulation of the immune system, you want to keep your immune system from flaring up. Stress leads to inflammation and increased levels of c-reactive protein, which unnecessarily activate the immune system. Knitting, meditation and exercise may be worth trying. Rest is also helpful, so try and get to sleep every night. Some research shows people with lupus can benefit from getting 12 hours of sleep per night.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Dabbing some apple cider vinegar on a lupus rash may also help to get rid of it or relieve irritation. Put some on a cloth and dab it onto the affected area.
  • Apply ointments: Topical creams and ointments can help, too. The creams are typically steroid-based and vary in potency. The potency to use is ultimately determined by the severity of the rash.
  • Oral treatments: Oral treatments can also be taken, and are the most common. They are antimalarials and control the prevalence skin rashes. In severe cases, oral steroids or steroidal injections can be an effective form of treatment.

Be careful of natural supplements that claim to “boost immunity.” As mentioned before, you don’t want to over-stimulate your immune system when you’re treating a bout of lupus rash!

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Statistics on Lupus,” Lupus Foundation of America web site;, last accessed January 27, 2016.
Cassoobhoy, A., “Slideshow: A visual guide to understanding lupus,” Web MD web site, January 30, 2014;
Keep, L., “Lupus Rash,” Love to Know web site;, last accessed January 27, 2016.