Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that can affect the skin in various ways. This can include causing a potentially itchy rash.

Lupus is a type of autoimmune disease, a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the body, causing inflammation. This can result in a wide variety of symptoms, which may include itchy rashes.

An estimated 60–70% of people with lupus may report skin involvement. Lupus has many types of skin manifestations, which can vary from person to person. Some people may experience painful or itchy rashes, while others may not experience any sensation from the rash.

In this article, we will discuss whether lupus can result in an itchy rash, other ways lupus affects the skin, and how to manage an itchy lupus rash.

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A lupus rash can be itchy for some individuals. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, a butterfly rash, or malar rash, is an itchy rash that appears across the bridge of the nose and the cheeks. It often occurs after exposure to sunlight, but it can occur spontaneously.

A butterfly rash is a common symptom of lupus. In some people, the appearance of the rash can indicate the start of a flare or worsening of their symptoms. However, not everyone who has lupus develops this rash. A malar rash can also indicate several other underlying conditions, such as rosacea and pellagra.

A type of lupus called discoid lupus typically affects only the skin. It often results in patches of thickened and scaly skin that may itch.

Itchiness and pain can vary from person to person, and not everyone with a lupus rash will experience itchiness. A person may experience periods when their lupus symptoms worsen, known as flares, and times when they go away, known as remission.

If a person develops an itchy rash, they should consider contacting a doctor to find out about treatment options to help relieve their symptoms.

A lupus rash can occur anywhere on the skin. Some of the most common areas are those with sun exposure, such as the:

  • neck
  • ears
  • thighs
  • lips
  • face
  • scalp
  • hands
  • arms

Lupus may cause a rash to occur in other areas that often get less sun exposure, including the:

  • chest
  • breasts
  • buttocks
  • back

A rash or lesions can also appear on the mucous membranes. A person may notice a rash or lesions in their:

  • mouth
  • nose
  • vagina

Additionally, lupus can affect a person’s hair and nails. For example, a person’s nails can become brittle, lift from the nail bed, or have other physical changes. The nails may be more prone to infections, such as fungal infections. Lupus can also cause hair to become coarse and dry, leading to hair loss and possible bald spots.

Lupus may cause issues with blood and blood vessels as well. The blood vessels may become more easily visible through the skin, or a person may develop calcinosis — hard, white lumps of calcium under the skin.

Lupus is a chronic condition. A person will experience periods of remission and flares. Often, flares occur in response to a trigger, or a stimulating force.

Triggers can be internal or external and can vary from person to person. Common triggers that may cause an itchy rash to appear include:

  • stress
  • exposure to toxins, such as silica
  • infections
  • use of household chemicals

A person may benefit from trying to figure out their triggers. If a person can identify their triggers, they can take steps to avoid them and potentially reduce the frequency and severity of their flares.

A person can take some steps to manage their rash and prevent flares. Treatments may be systemic, topical, or both. Treatments can vary based on the rash and any other symptoms a person has. A person may benefit from working with a dermatologist, who can determine the best treatment options for them.

Common treatment options for lupus and associated rashes include:

  • immunosuppressants
  • steroids
  • Benlysta
  • antimalarial medicine
  • sulfones
  • retinoid medication

A person can also take steps to prevent skin rashes from flaring or occurring. This may involve avoiding triggers. For example, if household chemicals are a trigger, a person might wear gloves when using them. A person may find that avoiding sun exposure and cold temperatures can help as well.

To limit sun exposure, a person can:

  • use adequate sunblock
  • put on a hat with a visor before going outside
  • wear protective clothing to cover exposed skin

Lupus can cause an itchy rash in some people. The severity of the rash can vary, and some people may not experience any itchy sensations at all.

A lupus rash may result from exposure to sunlight or other triggers, or it may occur spontaneously. If a rash occurs, a person can use both topical and systemic medications to treat the flare. To help prevent a lupus rash, a person can try to avoid exposure to cold, sunlight, and other triggers they are aware of.