A lupus rash on the face is most commonly caused by a form of systemic lupus called cutaneous lupus erythmatosus. Three sub-types of cutaneous lupus — chronic, subacute, and acute — are known to cause three different types of rash. While the primary location of these rashes is the face, it is not uncommon for one to appear elsewhere on the body, particularly on spots exposed to light. Although cutaneous lupus causes a rash, it is still a form of a systemic condition, which means it can affect the whole body.
Lupus is a form of an autoimmune disease, which means that the disease causes the immune system to attack the cells in the body. Skin cells are targeted by cutaneous lupus erythematosus, which is why this form is typically the one that causes a rash.
Chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus, also called discoid lupus, causes a rash that has lesions shaped like a disk. The lesions are usually thick and scaly and do not generally itch or burn. Skin discoloration and scarring often result from repeat occurrences. Many people will develop a rash on other areas of the body, but most outbreaks occur on the face. The rash is often very sensitive to light and can worsen with prolonged exposure.
A rash on the face can also be caused by subacute cutaneous lupus, and these lesions have noticeable edges and resemble red rings. Although the rash commonly occurs on areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as the arms, a face rash is also likely. Generally, itching and scarring are uncommon, but mild discoloration is possible.
Acute cutaneous lupus is another possible cause of a lupus rash on the face. With this type of lupus, active systemic lupus is frequently the primary cause. A malar rash, also called a butterfly rash, occurs with this form. This rash resembles a butterfly and stretches from one cheek to the other, crossing over the bridge of the nose.
It's best for patients who have a lupus rash to speak to a dermatologist. Creams and ointments can be applied to aid healing, and steroid injections can also be used. All three types of lupus rash are photosensitive, and individuals should stay out of direct sunlight when they have a rash.