What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease (a condition where your immune system attacks healthy cells). Lupus can affect a number of organs, including the skin (two-thirds of people with lupus have skin complications). Different forms of lupus include:
- Systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common type of lupus. It can be mild or severe, and typically causes chronic inflammation, specifically with the kidneys, joints and skin.
- Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) only affects the skin and has several different forms itself:
- Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) causes dark, red and scaly patches typically on the face, scalp and ears. These can also form around the eyelids or inside the mouth and nose. As skin heals, scars can form.
- Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE) causes red, ring-shaped patches usually on the arms, shoulders, neck and trunk. It can be mistaken for psoriasis.
- Acute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ACLE) causes areas of red skin that resemble sunburns or blushing. When appearing on the nose and cheeks, it can resemble a butterfly, so is often called the “butterfly rash.”
- Drug-induced lupus erythematosus is a lupus-like disease that results from certain prescription drugs. This shares many of the symptoms of SLE and usually improves within a few months of stopping the causing medication. If you are experiencing symptoms, talk with your doctor before stopping any medication.
- Neonatal lupus is rare and affects the skin of newborns. It often doesn’t require treatment, but infants with this condition should still be monitored by physicians.
How Else Can Lupus Affect the Skin and Hair?
Lupus sometimes damages blood vessels, which can be visible on the skin. This can appear as a blue lace-like pattern, reddish-purple spots or deep lumps and sores. Also, a condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon can occur in those with lupus. This restricts blood flow, causing the tips of fingers and toes to turn white or blue in response to cold or stress. SLE can also cause hair thinning and a severe lupus breakout can result in “lupus hair,” which is fragile and easily broken.