Medical Definition of Butterfly rash

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Butterfly rash: A red, flat facial rash over the bridge of the nose. Many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) develop this characteristic rash. Because of its shape, it is frequently referred to as the "butterfly rash" of lupus.

The butterfly rash of lupus is typically painless and does not itch. Along with inflammation in other organs, the butterfly rash of lupus can be precipitated or worsened by exposure to sunlight, a condition called photosensitivity. The photosensitivity can be accompanied by a worsening of inflammation throughout the body, causing a "flare" of the disease.

A "butterfly" rash can also occur in other conditions such as rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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