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What is a Lupus Butterfly Rash?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2016
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A lupus butterfly rash is a symptom that can present in both cutaneous (skin) and systemic (whole-body) lupus. It’s frequently present in cutaneous versions of the illness and thought to occur about 30-40% of the time in people with systemic lupus. The descriptive name for this rash is easy to understand because of its appearance. It is a light pink to red or brown, flat or raised, discoloration of the skin that appears on the nose and cheeks, creating a butterfly shape. There are treatments that may address the rash partly or wholly, and presence of this skin symptom may worsen or recede; avoidance of sunlight is important to keep its appearance minimal.

A number of different rashes may look like the lupus butterfly rash. Rosacea, which can appear on the nose and cheeks, can bear significant resemblance to the rash. Sunburn may also look like mild lupus rash, or melasma associated with pregnancy is occasionally mistaken for lupus butterfly rash. Severe sebhorreic dermatitis, which is most associated with dandruff and cradle cap, can affect the face and cause a butterfly-shaped rash too. These additional skin conditions, and many more need to be ruled out if doctors are attempting to diagnose lupus.

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On the other hand, a lupus butterfly rash can confirm a diagnosis of lupus, especially systemic lupus. This is because the condition is usually evaluated in terms of markers for the disease, instead of just single factors. In the midst of presence of other lupus symptoms like joint pain, other forms of rash, sun sensitivity, and frequently occurring infections, the hallmark lupus butterfly rash could definitively suggest the illness.

Many people are less interested in how the rash plays diagnostically and are more interested in how the lupus butterfly rash can be treated, or its appearance minimized. There are different treatments for this condition, but all accounts agree that skin irritation tends to worsen and be more apparent with sun exposure. Investing in a good hat that will provide sun protection to the face and using sunscreen are important steps.

Beyond that, there are several ointments and creams that can be applied to the face to reduce the look of the butterfly rash. This skin irritation has a tendency to come and go, worsening when the body experiences lupus flares or if exposure to the sun occurs. In times when the rash is more severe, oral treatments or injections could be used to lessen its appearance.

Women have an additional advantage in addressing this condition that isn’t open to most men. Foundation make-ups that provide coverage for skin conditions may cover the rash completely, provided it is flat, or they can at least significantly reduce its appearance. Investing in a foundation with a good sunscreen in it can be an excellent choice.

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candyquilt
Post 3

I suffer from cutaneous lupus and I have a malar rash (butterfly rash) all the time. Unfortunately, I can't use makeup or harsh creams as they seem to irritate my skin further. But I definitely use a mild a moisturizer with sun protection as the sun triggers and worsens the rash. I also wear very dark, large sunglasses when I go outside to protect myself. I try to remain in the shade at all times, but even this is not enough sometimes. It's very tough to live with lupus. My doctor has just started me on steroid treatment and I'm hoping that this will reduce my rash.

ZipLine
Post 2

@fify-- As the article said, its possible to get both and they may occur at the same time. In fact, if you have both a butterfly face rash and body rashes that are difficult to treat and that react to sun, it is more likely that the cause is lupus. Usually, lupus affects skin before other organs. These rashes are symptoms of skin inflammation caused by lupus.

Of course, it's not easy to diagnose lupus and a doctor is unlikely to diagnose you with it if this is the only symptom you have. Other symptoms have to be considered and diagnostic tests have to be done. But please see a doctor about this soon if you haven't yet, particularly if you have additional lupus symptoms like fatigue, inflammation and frequent illness.

fify
Post 1
Can someone with lupus get a butterfly facial rash as well as a body rash at the same time? Or does the body rash rule out lupus?

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