Lupus is a disease that can affect the skin in many ways. It may cause a:
Lupus can show up on the skin in other ways, too.
The sun can cause lupus to flare, so sun protection is essential.
When lupus affects the skin, it is called cutaneous (medical term for skin) lupus. There are different types of cutaneous (cue-tane-e-ous) lupus. For many people who have cutaneous lupus, the lupus affects only their skin.
Some types of cutaneous lupus are more common in people who have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE is a type of lupus that can affect different parts of the body, including the skin, joints, and lungs.
A dermatologist can tell you whether you have lupus or another skin condition. What looks like a lupus rash on your face could be another skin condition like rosaceaor an allergic skin reaction.
If you have cutaneous lupus, a dermatologist can:
Lupus can increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. If you take a medicine that works on your immune system, you may have a higher risk of getting skin cancer.
People who have a type of lupus called discoid lupus may also have a greater risk. When discoid lupus develops on the lip or inside the mouth, it increases a person’s risk for a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
You can see what discoid lupus and other types of cutaneous lupus look like at Lupus and your skin: Signs and symptoms.
Each is a different type of lupus. Cutaneous lupus affects the skin. SLE can affect the skin and other parts of your body, including the joints, lungs, and kidneys.
A person can have cutaneous lupus without having SLE. If you have lupus on your skin, however, it can be a sign that lupus is affecting other parts of your body. That’s why it’s so important to see a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis.
Dermatologists have expertise in treating lupus on the skin.
Dermatologists also know who is more likely to get certain types of lupus. You can find out if you have a higher risk by going to Lupus and your skin: Who gets and causes.
People of all ages and races get lupus. Women are more likely to get some types of lupus. The following explains who is most likely to get the different types of lupus.
Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE): This type of lupus can affect many organs, including the skin, kidneys, and joints.
Women are much more likely to get SLE. It often begins between 15 and 45 years of age.
Smoking may increase the risk of developing SLE.
Cutaneous (affects the skin) lupus: Several types of lupus affect the skin. Most types are more common in women and often appear between 20 and 50 years of age.
Drug-induced lupus: Caused by taking medicine, this type seems more common in men.
Neonatal lupus: With medical help from specialists, mothers who have lupus can give birth to healthy babies. Occasionally, a baby is born with neonatal lupus. This type of lupus usually disappears by the time the baby is 6 to 8 months old — and never returns.
A thorough checkup is important if a baby is born with neonatal lupus. Some babies with neonatal lupus have permanent heart disease and need a pacemaker.
All types of lupus are autoimmune diseases. This means that the immune system attacks the body. When a person has systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), the immune system may attack different parts of the body, including the skin, kidneys, and lungs.
Lupus is not contagious. You cannot catch it from someone.
What causes people to develop this type of autoimmune disease isn’t certain. It may be a combination of genes, environmental triggers, and hormones.
Anything that triggers your immune system to attack itself can cause lupus to flare. When lupus affects the skin, common triggers for lupus are:
If you believe that you could have lupus, early diagnosis and treatment are important. You’ll find out how dermatologists diagnose and treat people when lupus affects the skin at Lupus and your skin: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome.