Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can cause a rash that can affect most of the skin, including the legs. Doctors may recommend medication to treat a lupus rash.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can affect several parts of the body. It occurs because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. This results in inflammation that can cause damage to various parts of the body, including the skin.

A butterfly-shaped rash, known as a malar rash, is most often associated with lupus. However, rashes can appear elsewhere on the body, including the legs. In addition to the skin, lupus may also affect the joints and internal organs.

This article will discuss how lupus may affect the legs, where a rash may appear, and other lupus symptoms.

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Lupus commonly affects the skin. It can affect the skin on the legs in a few different ways, including:

  • an appearance of round, scaly rashes
  • swelling in the legs
  • sensitivity to sun, which can lead to a rash

Several types of lupus can affect the skin differently. Most people with lupus may experience skin problems like rashes and sores. A type of lupus known as cutaneous lupus only affects the skin and may cause a rash on the legs.

There are four subtypes of cutaneous lupus. They include:

  • acute cutaneous lupus, which may cause itchy, flat, and discolored areas of skin
  • subacute cutaneous lupus, which may result in skin lesions that appear similar to pimples
  • intermittent lupus, which may cause lesions that appear on sun-exposed areas of the body and resolve in winter
  • chronic cutaneous lupus, which can result in round, disc-like sores that typically appear on the scalp or face

Lupus can affect several areas of the skin. Depending on the type of lupus, a person may experience a rash, sores, swelling, or other skin changes in areas that typically receive sun exposure. In addition to the legs, this may include:

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

A person may also have signs of lupus develop in skin that gets little sun, such as the breasts, buttocks, back, and chest. However, the development of lupus rash is typically more common in sun-exposed areas of skin.

In addition to rashes, other common skin symptoms of lupus may include:

Systemic lupus can cause a variety of symptoms based on what part of the body it affects. Other common lupus symptoms can include:

Lupus can affect major organs in the body such as the heart and kidneys. Lupus may also increase the risk of developing other conditions, such as atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

Treatments for lupus typically involve addressing a person’s symptoms. Therapies for reducing skin problems that occur with lupus typically involve taking systemic medications.

Some common treatments that may help with a lupus rash include:

  • corticosteroid creams to help reduce inflammation
  • antimalarials, which can help with several symptoms, such as fatigue and skin rashes
  • immunosuppressants to help reduce systemic inflammation and reduce the severity of a rash
  • B-lymphocyte stimulator protein inhibitor, which is a type of biologic medication that may help with several symptoms, including lupus rash
  • topical calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus
  • dapsone, which is commonly used in severe skin conditions not responding to other treatments

A person may also be interested in exploring alternative therapies. Though most do not have adequate research supporting their use, a person may find the following beneficial:

  • fish oil
  • supplements
  • nonmedicated creams and ointments
  • specialized diets

Before taking supplements and making major changes to their diet, they should discuss their current health conditions and medications with a doctor. They can help ensure that a person can safely take the supplements or make dietary recommendations.

Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can cause a variety of symptoms. This can include rashes that may appear anywhere on the body, including the legs. To help reduce the appearance of rashes, and other symptoms related to lupus, a doctor will typically prescribe medications.