Lupus can affect the skin and cause rashes to appear anywhere on the body. People with lupus typically develop rashes or sores on skin exposed to the sun, including the face, upper back, and chest.
Lupus is a long-term autoimmune condition. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and organs. This results in inflammation that causes a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, and skin rashes.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus. Evidence suggests that about
In this article, we discuss what types of lupus may appear on the chest and how to manage lupus rash.
Health experts may use the term cutaneous lupus to describe a form of lupus that affects the skin. There are four subtypes of cutaneous lupus. They include:
- acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ACLE)
- subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE)
- intermittent lupus erythematosus (ICLE)
- chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CCLE)
Each of these rashes has its own characteristic presentation and tends to appear on different areas of the body. A person may show more than one type of rash.
SCLE is one type of lupus rash that commonly affects the chest. This type often
- upper chest
- upper back
These lesions are not painful and do not itch or scar.
However, they may leave areas of lighter skin and spider veins on the skin, also known as telangiectasia. They are often mistaken for eczema or psoriasis.
SCLE causes two types of lesions. Papulosquamous lesions may appear as red, raised, scaly patches with distinct edges. While annular lesions are flat, ring-shaped circles that vary widely in size and may overlap.
ICLE, also known as
ACLE is another type of lupus rash. It usually occurs alongside an SLE flare. The butterfly or malar rash is the most commonly associated rash with acute cutaneous lupus. This flat, red, and itchy rash spreads across the cheeks and nose. But ACLE may also cause generalized rashes, leading to a widespread rash in a
In darker skin tones, it can cause hypo-pigmentation, or skin lightening, presenting as red, brown, or dark purple in these areas.
CCLE is the most common form of cutaneous lupus. These are different forms of CCLE, and while it can impact the chest, it most often appears on the scalp or face.
People with lupus can develop a rash
In addition to the chest, other commonly exposed skin areas include:
However, people with cutaneous lupus can also get rashes on skin areas that get little to no sunlight, including:
Because lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting almost all organs in the body, it can cause a wide range of symptoms. These
- muscle and joint pain
- extreme or prolonged fatigue
- chest pain
- hair loss
- kidney problems
- mouth sores or ulcers
- eye issues like dry eyes or vision changes
- memory problems
- bleeding and clotting problems
- gastrointestinal issues like nausea and vomiting
At present, there is no permanent cure for cutaneous lupus, but lifestyle changes and medications can help manage skin rashes and lesions.
Lifestyle changes that protect the skin from UV light can help prevent and ease symptoms. These strategies can include:
- timing activities appropriately to avoid sun exposure
- wearing lightweight, loose-fitting dark clothing that covers skin
- applying broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
People sensitive to indoor lighting can also place light shields over fluorescent bulbs or bulbs that send out lower amounts of UV radiation. UV-blocking shades for windows can also help block sunlight from outside.
Depending on the severity of the person’s symptoms, doctors may prescribe topical or oral medications to treat lupus skin problems. A doctor may recommend any of the following medications:
- Antimalarials: This is an
effectiveoption for most cutaneous manifestations. Doctors usually prescribe hydroxychloroquine.
- Steroids: These drugs can help manage inflammation. They may come in the form of creams, pills, or injections. A doctor may also prescribe systemic steroids in people with severe or resistant disease.
- Calcineurin inhibitors: These medications can address skin inflammation by blocking the calcineurin protein in the blood. Examples include tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream.
- Immunomodulators: Doctors may also consider prescribing immunomodulators or immunosuppressives. These drugs suppress the immune system. These include drugs such as methotrexate and mycophenolate mofetil.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: These medications, such as ibuprofen, help reduce joint pain and inflammation.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can affect different body organs, including the skin.
Skin symptoms of lupus often appear in areas that receive sun exposure, such as the chest. However, lupus can also affect skin areas that do not receive sun exposure.
Currently, there is no cure for these skin lesions, but lifestyle changes and medications can help manage them.