Lupus is a common type of autoimmune disorder that can cause painful inflammation in various parts of the body. A rare subtype of the disorder, tumid lupus, primarily affects the outer and inner layers of skin. Dry, non-itchy rashes can develop anywhere on the body during a flare of lupus, but skin problems are usually isolated to the scalp, face, neck, or chest. Most cases are relatively mild and only cause outbreaks a few times a year, though some people experience chronic rashes and other related symptoms. The condition can usually be controlled by taking precautions against known triggers and using topical anti-inflammatory creams during active episodes.
Doctors are unsure what causes tumid lupus to develop, but the disorder is likely due to both genetic and environmental factors. Most people who develop symptoms have a family history of lupus, chronic dermatitis, or another type of autoimmune disorder. Environmental triggers such as sun exposure, hot air, smoking, and certain pharmaceutical drugs increase the likelihood of outbreaks in people who are genetically predisposed. Women between the ages of 20 and 50 are at the highest risk of developing the condition for reasons that are not entirely understood.
An active outbreak typically involves the appearance of a red, dry patch of skin. The rash usually does not itch, although it may be tender and cause radiating heat and pain. Raised bumps or ring-shaped lesions may be present as well. Unlike dermatitis outbreaks, lupus rashes do not look scaly, and they are usually smooth to the touch. Other possible symptoms include easy fatigue and exhaustion in warm weather, headaches, and joint pain.
Since tumid lupus is a rare condition, it may be difficult to obtain a proper diagnosis right away. A dermatologist who specializes in autoimmune disorders can carefully inspect the rash and ask about symptoms. He or she may take blood samples and skin biopsies to look for signs of unusual autoimmune activity in the body. The patient and doctor work together to try to identify specific environmental triggers.
There is no cure for tumid lupus, though medications and lifestyle changes can provide significant symptom relief. Patients are instructed to avoid known triggers as best as possible, such as staying out of the summer heat and wearing protective clothing and sunscreen when venturing outdoors. Corticosteroid creams are often prescribed to ease pain and redness during an active attack. Some patients spontaneously get better as they get older, but tumid lupus requires lifelong treatment for the majority of people.