Cutaneous Lupus

Approximately two-thirds of people with lupus will observe some type of effect on their skin. In fact, 40-70 percent of people with lupus will find that their disease is made worse by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or artificial light.

Chronic cutaneous lupus (discoid lupus)

Discoid lupus appears as disk-shaped, round lesions. The sores usually appear on the scalp and face but sometimes they will occur on other parts of the body as well.

Discoid lupus lesions are often red, scaly, and thick. Usually they do not hurt or itch. Over time, these lesions can produce scarring and skin discoloration (darkly colored and/or lightly colored areas).

The medications used to treat lupus-related skin conditions depends on the form of cutaneous lupus. The most common treatments are topical ointments, such as steroid cream or gel. In some cases liquid steroids will be injected directly into the lesions.

In addition, thalidomide (Thalomid®) has been increasingly accepted as a treatment for the types of lupus that affect the skin; it has been shown to greatly improve cutaneous lupus that has not responded to other treatments.

Preventative treatments

  • Avoid/protect yourself from sunlight and artificial ultraviolet light
  • Seek shade
  • Sunscreens — physical and chemical

Local/topical treatments

  • Corticosteroid creams, ointments, gels, solutions, lotions, sprays, foams
  • Calcineurin inhibitors
  • Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic®)
  • Pimecrolimus cream (Elidel®)

#LupusInColor

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