Cutaneous Lupus

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus, the skin-related form of lupus, affects people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) but can also occur on its own.   

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus has been classified into three major subtypes:

  • Acute cutaneous lupus
  • Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus
  • Chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus, with discoid lupus being the most common subtype 

Symptoms of Cutaneous Lupus

Acute cutaneous lupus can present as a butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose that is triggered by sunlight exposure.

Subacute cutaneous lupus is characterized by either ring-shaped red patches with scaly borders and lighter centers or scaly red bumps in sun-exposed areas.

Discoid lupus lesions are composed of red scaly plaques with both light and dark pigmentation, scarring, and skin thinning.

Treatments for Cutaneous Lupus

There is no cure for cutaneous lupus. It is a chronic disease that can be controlled by a variety of medications and lifestyle changes such as:

  • Limiting sun exposure through use of sunscreens and sun-protective clothing.
  • Steroids, which can be applied directly on the skin, injected into the skin lesions, or taken by mouth. Prednisone is a commonly used oral corticosteroid that is reserved for severe disease and can quickly mitigate cutaneous lupus lesions.
  • Anti-malarials (e.g., hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and quinacrine), which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Immunosuppressive medications (e.g., mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine, methotrexate), which are reserved for severe disease and are long-term options for cutaneous lupus patients attempting to wean themselves off of oral steroids.

Clinical Research for Cutaneous Lupus

The dermatologists at UT Southwestern are establishing a national registry for cutaneous lupus patients and their relatives in order to gather the large number of patients necessary for studies to better understand the development of the disease and improve our methods of diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

This registry is a significant advancement in cutaneous lupus research and will provide a resource for investigators to make discoveries in regards to both the clinical and genetic aspects of the disease. Patients enrolled in the study will be first in line for clinical trials conducted at UT Southwestern for cutaneous lupus patients.

If you are interested in learning more about the registry, please email us at skinlupus.registry@utsouthwestern.edu or call us at 214-633-1859.