Skin rash is the most frequent symptom of lupus, affecting 90 percent of people who have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The name "lupus" comes from the wolf-like appearance caused by the malar rash that appears across the face. Lupus patients may also experience skin problems affecting the mucous membranes (mouth and nose) as well as skin rash on the chest, scalp and other areas of the body.
Often the first sign of lupus is the butterfly shaped rash that appears across the face. If you notice this sign, make an appointment with a doctor or a rheumatologist. The doctor will likely order an antinuclear antibody test. An ANA test detects antibodies that people with lupus typically test positive for--though a positive test does not necessarily mean you have lupus. You doctor may recommend several things for relief of skin rash due to lupus.
Avoid sun exposure
Avoid exposure to the sun, which can aggravate skin issues. Schedule activities so that you are not outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are most powerful. Also avoid halogen and fluorescent lighting.
When you do go out, wear clothing that covers your skin as much as possible and shade your face with a hat. Select an SPF 30 sun screen that protects from UVA and UVB rays. Choose a sun screen designed for sensitive skin to avoid a possible reaction to the chemicals in the product.
Other preventative measures
Avoid smoking, which may trigger skin rash. Also avoid other environmental chemicals such as hair dyes or lotions that may contain irritating chemicals. If you wear makeup, choose brands that are designed for sensitive skin or that are hypoallergenic. These products will often have a protective sunscreen. The Lupus Foundation of America recommends two makeup brands, Total Block and Covermark Cosmetics, for women with lupus.
While 40 to 70 percent of lupus sufferers find their skin rash worsens after exposure to UVA and UVB rays, the rest may still need help beyond preventative measures.
Topical applications include corticosteroid creams, gels or sprays. Doctors may also prescribe calcineurin inhibitors such as Protopic or Elidel, which are also topical applications.
When topical applications do not help, doctors may prescribe other, systematic treatments like retinoids and sulfones. Antimalarials such as Plaquenil may be prescribed as well. This type of drug can cause serious side effects, so notify your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Work with your doctor to find a combination of prevention and medical treatment for relief.