Lupus is a chronic condition that can affect most of a person’s body, including their skin. People may experience a lupus rash on their neck or other body parts following sunlight exposure.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that results in systemic inflammation. It occurs due to the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. A person may experience periods where their symptoms are nonexistent, known as remission, and times when their symptoms worsen, known as flares.

As lupus causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, it can result in various symptoms. This can involve causing rashes to appear on various parts of the body, including the neck.

In this article, we will discuss the types of lupus that may affect the neck, other areas a lupus rash may appear, and treatment options for managing a lupus rash.

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There are forms of lupus that affect the skin — doctors group them under the term cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE). Evidence suggests that around 4.3 people per 100,000 live with one type of CLE. There are four subtypes of CLE, which include:

  • acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus
  • subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE)
  • intermittent cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ICLE)
  • chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus

Of these subtypes, SCLE often causes a rash to appear on the skin. This form is photosensitive, meaning that exposure to sunlight or artificial UV light can trigger a flare. When a rash occurs due to SCLE, it does not itch or cause discomfort. It appears as a scaly rash that does not scar when it clears but may cause skin discoloration.

ICLE, also known as lupus tumidus, is another form of CLE that often occurs on sun-exposed areas of skin, such as the face, chest, and neck. Lesions that occur due to ICLE usually present as round papules and plaques with a
smooth surface. In some cases, this type of lupus may resolve in winter without scarring.

Wearing protective clothing or using sunblock can help prevent a flare of lupus rash with these types of CLE.

Other forms may cause skin rashes to appear on the neck. However, while they can occur anywhere on the body, including the neck, they typically occur on other areas of the body, such as the face, scalp, and arms.

A lupus rash can occur on several areas of the skin. It commonly occurs on areas that get frequent sun exposure, including the:

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

A person with lupus may also develop a butterfly rash on their face, known as a malar rash. The rash appears on the bridge of the nose and cheeks and forms the shape of a butterfly. It is a common presentation in lupus and several other systemic conditions. A doctor typically needs to determine the underlying cause of the rash.

Lupus can also cause a rash to appear on areas that do not get sun exposure frequently, such as the:

  • buttocks
  • breasts
  • chest
  • back

Sores can also appear on the mucous membranes, including the:

  • mouth
  • nose
  • vagina

Lupus that affects the skin can also cause issues with other related areas. The condition may also affect a person’s nails and hair. Their nails can become brittle, lift from the skin, or undergo other physical changes. Additionally, their hair can become coarse and dry, leading to hair loss.

In some cases, lupus can also cause the development of calcinosis. This term refers to hard, white lumps of calcium buildup under the skin. Lupus may also cause issues with blood vessels and blood, which a person may be able to see through the skin.

People with lupus can develop symptoms that affect other areas of the body besides the skin. Some common symptoms someone may notice include:

  • joint pain or swelling
  • extreme fatigue
  • low fevers
  • swelling around the eyes or feet

It can also cause inflammation throughout the body that affects various systems, including the:

  • brain and central nervous system
  • heart and cardiovascular system
  • kidneys

Due to the variety of issues lupus can cause on the skin, treatments can vary. A dermatologist can often help determine the most appropriate treatment for a person.

A doctor may recommend a skin biopsy for a person if they are unsure of a diagnosis of skin lupus. If someone’s symptoms suggest systemic lupus erythematosus, a referral to rheumatologist is important.

Some common treatment options to treat lupus skin rashes include:

  • Steroids: Available in different forms, such as creams, pills, or injections, these drugs can help with skin inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants: These drugs can help suppress the immune system response and prevent it from attacking the skin. A person may need addition immunosuppressants if the lupus affects their joints or organs.
  • Antimalarial medication: These medications can help protect the skin from rashes and UV light.
  • Retinoids: These chemicals play a role in immunity and skin health and can help reduce skin inflammation.
  • Benlysta: This is a type of human monoclonal antibody that can help reduce the number of antibodies that target the body’s own tissues.

A person can also take steps to prevent skin rashes from flaring or occurring. This can include protecting the skin from sunlight with broad-spectrum sunscreen that they apply frequently throughout the day. They may also need to avoid the sun during warm weather and certain peak hours during the daytime.

Additionally, it is worth noting that a lupus rash is not contagious, so a person cannot pass lupus on to another individual.

Lupus can cause a rash to appear on many different areas of the body. Typically, these rashes occur more frequently in areas that receive sun exposure, such as the neck.

Additionally, a person may also notice changes in their hair and nails, the appearance of blood vessels under the skin, and other lupus-related symptoms, such as fatigue and sore joints.

A person can often manage a lupus rash with medications. They can also make lifestyle changes, such as limiting their exposure to UV light, to help prevent flares.