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Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE)

On this page, Georgia Council on Lupus Education and Awareness in Atlanta, Georgia discusses pertinent information regarding cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE):

What Are the Common Symptoms of CLE?

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (cutaneous lupus) causes photosensitivity, skin rashes, and skin lesions on any part of the body. There are three common types of cutaneous lupus: discoid lupus, subacute cutaneous lupus, and acute cutaneous lupus.

Discoid Lupus

Discoid lupus is the most common form of cutaneous lupus. People living with this condition complain of a red, raised, and scaly lesion on the face, scalp, or parts of the body. Manifestations on the face form across the cheeks, nose, and ears. Over time, these lesions can produce scarring and skin discoloration (darkly colored and/or lightly colored areas).

Typically, these lesions occur on areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent lights. If lesions appear on the scalp or involve the hair follicles, areas of hair loss may develop, which could be permanent if the hair follicle is completely destroyed. They are often not itchy or painful.

Subacute Cutaneous Lupus

Subacute cutaneous lupus can cause skin lesions on any part of the body. These lesions often form red, ring-shaped, scaly patches on the skin. These lesions do not itch and often appear on the chest, upper back, and neck. However, they may also be seen on the face and arms.

These lesions usually occur on areas of the body that are exposed to sunlight or fluorescent lights. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for patients with this condition to have associated joint disease.

Acute Cutaneous Lupus

Acute cutaneous lupus results in flat, red patches on the cheeks and nose called a malar or butterfly rash that looks quite like a sunburn. These patches may also appear on the arms, legs, trunk, and any other area that is commonly exposed to the sun.

Patients with this kind of lupus can also manifest oral ulcers, hives, and temporary hair loss. Acute cutaneous lupus is more common in people living with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

How Is Cutaneous Lupus Diagnosed?

A skin biopsy is helpful in making the diagnosis of cutaneous lupus in addition to direct immunofluorescence tests, which reveal antibody deposition within the skin.

Who Gets Cutaneous Lupus?

Cutaneous lupus most often affects women ages 20-50. Two-thirds of people living with SLE will develop some type of cutaneous lupus. Manifestations of skin disease are often induced by sunlight.

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