Managing The Skin Symptoms Of This Chronic Disease

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own organs and tissues. It can affect many different systems within the body, such as the joints, skin, blood cells, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs. Lupus is a chronic disease that has times of exacerbation and times of dormancy. When diagnosed early, treatment can help decrease some of the symptoms associated with this chronic illness. Doctors are still unsure of the exact cause of lupus; however, it is more prevalent in women and women of color. There may also be a genetic component and environmental components such as stress, viruses and certain medications. 


How Does Lupus Affect the Skin

The majority of people with lupus will develop some form of lupus-related skin disease. These skin diseases can cause rashes or lesions on the body, usually most prevalent in sun-exposed areas. These skin conditions are categorized into three main types:

  • Acute cutaneous – presents with a butterfly-shaped rash that appears across the cheeks and nose. This rash may be the first indicator of the disease, and it may also reappear when flares are occurring in other parts of the body.
  • Subacute cutaneous – presents in a series of ringed scaly patches most frequently on the torso.
  • Chronic cutaneous – commonly causes discoid lupus, which can give rise to plaques that form on the head and neck. These plaques can often be itchy and painful and cause scars as well as hair loss.

Each type of lupus affects the skin differently and doctors have different treatments depending on your unique skin symptoms.

Other skin conditions related to lupus include:

  • Calcinosis
  • Hair loss during flares that may be temporary
  • Cutaneous vasculitis lesions
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Mucosal ulcerations in the lining of the mouth or nose
  • Petechiae

It is very important for people with lupus to protect themselves from sunlight. Lupus tends to make people unusually sensitive to sunlight and can trigger rashes with burning and itching. Sunlight can also trigger a flare in other symptoms such as joint pain, weakness and fatigue.

Treatment for Lupus-Related Skin Conditions

There are medications used to treat lupus-related skin conditions such as topical ointments and creams. In certain instances, steroids can be injected into skin lesions to reduce inflammation. There are newer topical medications that can be used to treat more serious skin conditions that do not contain steroids and therefore do not have the side effects associated with steroids which have been shown to suppress immune system activity as evident in the butterfly rash and even discoid lupus lesions.

At Complexions Dermatology, we will work with you and your rheumatologist to help manage your skin symptoms. If you are interested in learning more about how to manage the skin conditions of lupus call today at our Danville location (434) 792-0423 or our Colonial Heights location (804) 805-8442.

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