If you have a rash that appeared suddenly or recurs intermittently, you may be unsure of its cause. Rashes are associated with everything from scabies to allergic reactions to lupus. A lupus rash, like all types of rashes, needs specialized treatment.

Before discussing lupus rashes, it’s helpful to know more about lupus. This chronic inflammatory disease sometimes affects only the skin, but it also can affect other organs and systems, including the joints, brain, heart, blood, and kidneys. Antibodies that normally protect the body against organisms like bacteria instead attack healthy tissues. With lupus, the body experiences flares, which are periods of illness followed by periods of inactivity, known as remission. These flares can affect lupus rashes as well.

A rash, generally categorized as an irregularity in the skin’s color, appearance, or texture, also may be itchy. A lupus rash typically appears on the nose and cheeks in a butterfly shape. Lupus rashes also may take the form of discoid rashes, which are raised and scaly and can leave scars. A third common type of lupus rash is called a subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus rash, which generally appears on sun-exposed skin and can form ring-like lesions or look like psoriasis. Any lupus rash can worsen with sun exposure.

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Treating a Lupus Rash

The Lupus Foundation of America says that 66 percent of those with lupus will develop some form of skin disease. Medicines help treat a lupus rash, but the treatment choice depends on the type of lupus and the person’s symptoms. The medicines may be topical, such as a steroid gel or cream. Antimalarials, such as hydroxychloroquine or quinacrine, methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil, prednisone, azathioprine, and others, also may be used to treat lupus rashes.

Staying in the shade, using a sunscreen, and avoiding ultraviolet (UV) light exposure to protect your skin also can help prevent a lupus rash. The Lupus Foundation of America notes that 40 percent to 70 percent of those with lupus find that UV exposure makes their skin worse.

The skin rash and other lupus symptoms are sometimes caused by medicine, so it’s a good idea to tell your doctor about any medicines you’re currently taking. Your doctor also can recommend skin care products to help you avoid skin involvement from lupus.

Early diagnosis and treatment of lupus won’t cure the disease, but it will help you manage the symptoms and decrease the chance of permanent tissue damage.

Lupus is best treated by a specialist. If you’ve been diagnosed with lupus, consider scheduling an appointment at the UPMC Lupus Center of Excellence, at 412-586-3550.

About UPMC

A $23 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 92,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 4 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $800 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside among the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.