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Lupus: The Skinny on Your Skin

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Sometimes, lupus can affect this big and delicate organ. One of the more common symptoms of lupus is a red rash that appears on the face. It is often called a “butterfly rash” because it may spread across the nose and cheeks. Rashes can also show up on your arms, shoulders and body.

People with certain types of lupus may be more likely to experience skin problems. For instance, cutaneous lupus causes thick red sores called lesions on the scalp, face or other parts of the body. Untreated, lesions can cause complications such as scarring, hair loss and even cancer. Tell your health care provider about any sores you have or changes in their appearance.

Sunlight is a common cause of many lupus skin problems, especially rashes. Take these steps to shield your skin from the sun every day:

  • Apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Apply it to areas that may be most prone to skin problems such as your neck, temples and ears.

  • Wear clothing that protects your skin such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

  • Avoid being outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.

  • Limit the time you spend each day indoors under fluorescent lights. 

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in skin problems. In addition to seeing your regular health care provider, a dermatologist can help manage any skin problems associated with lupus. There are many prescriptions and treatments available today that can make you feel better in your own skin.