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What Are Lupus Lesions?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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People affected by lupus, an autoimmune disorder, often experience lesions on their skin. There are three main kinds of lupus lesions: acute cutaneous, subacute cutaneous, and chronic discoid lupus lesions. Acute cutaneous lesions are also known as a butterfly rash and generally produce a mild red rash on the face. Subacute cutaneous lesions can produce red, raised bumps that grow in size and develop scales over time, or it can produce a flat irritation on the skin that grows outward, but does not produce a scar. Chronic discoid lesions produce a pink or red bump that only minimally rises above the surface of the skin, becomes crusty, and eventually scars.

The butterfly rash usually comes on quickly and typically does not produce a scar as it heals. It is considered a mild type of lesion. Some people even confuse it with unrelated issues, such as rosacea. Yet, some individuals are more severely affected, and blisters or other pimple-like eruptions form on their skin. Although this type of lesion is usually found on the face, it is possible for it to show up elsewhere as well.

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Subacute cutaneous lupus lesions are among the most common lesions. A person affected by these lesions may have a rash with red blister-like eruptions on the face, arms, and chest. As the rash continues, the skin eruptions grow in size and begin to scale. At that time, the rash most resembles psoriasis. Sunlight increases the itchiness of the rash and can make the appearance of the skin more aggravated.

There is a second form of subacute cutaneous lupus lesions as well. Generally, it begins as a flat lesion, but it typically grows larger in size with time. In some cases, the middle of the lesion may appear as if it has healed. The result is that the person has areas of skin that are covered with red circles with unaffected centers, similar to a ring. This form of the disease also itches and will worsen if exposed to the sun.

Chronic discoid lupus lesions are much less common. Generally, these lesions are barely raised and are pinkish red in color. They usually form a flaky crust and result in scarring. The scarring is what makes them significantly different from the other forms.

Although lupus lesions cannot be prevented, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the severity of outbreaks. For example, sun exposure should be kept to a minimum. Also, a high-quality sunscreen with a high sun protection factor should be used, particularly on the face and hands. In addition, a hat with a wide brim and a long sleeved shirt may be worn to shade the face and arms from the sun’s direct rays. In addition, treatment of lupus lesions is usually possible with antimalarial drugs, retinoids, and corticosteroids.

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