How Serious Is Cutaneous Lupus? Types & Treatment

Medically Reviewed on 6/7/2022
How Serious Is Cutaneous Lupus
Cutaneous lupus is a type of lupus characterized by a red, scaly rash on the skin

Cutaneous lupus is a type of lupus—an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack healthy tissues—characterized by a red, scaly rash on the skin

Though the condition is not contagious or life-threatening, cutaneous lupus rashes can cause long-term damage, such as scarring, skin discoloration, and permanent hair loss if left untreated.

Approximately 5%-25% of patients with cutaneous lupus can develop systemic lupus with primarily mucocutaneous and musculoskeletal manifestations. Discoid lupus erythematosus can potentially develop into skin cancer if left untreated for a long time.

What are different types of cutaneous lupus?

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus most commonly affects people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There are three types:

  • Acute cutaneous lupus: Characterized by a butterfly-shaped (malar) rash on the cheeks and nose triggered by sunlight exposure.
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus: Characterized by either ring-shaped red patches with scaly borders and lighter centers or scaly red bumps on sun-exposed areas.
  • Chronic or discoid cutaneous lupus erythematosus: Characterized by red scaly plaques (disc-shaped) lesions with both light and dark pigmentation, pain, itching, burning, scarring, and skin thinning.

How is cutaneous lupus treated?

While there is no cure for cutaneous lupus, symptoms can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes:


Lupus is an infection. See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 6/7/2022
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Cleveland Clinic. Cutaneous Lupus (Skin Lupus).

Arthritis Foundation. Cutaneous Lupus Symptoms and Treatments.

Lupus Foundation of America. What causes lupus?

Szczech J, Samotij D, Werth VP, Reich A. Trigger factors of cutaneous lupus erythematosus: a review of current literature. Lupus. 2017 Jul;26(8):791-807.