Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic and sometimes disabling autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, frequently attacking the skin, kidneys, joints, and/or nervous system. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans have lupus.
- Of individuals with SLE, nearly four out of five will have skin involvement.
- Skin involvement is quite often the first presenting symptom of SLE.
- Up to 60% will develop the malar (butterfly) rash.
- Even more–up to 69%–will develop a sun-sensitive or photosensitive rash, mainly on the areas exposed to UV light (Thomas).
Skin involvement can be acute, subacute, or chronic.
- Chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus tends to occur for long periods of time, can leave permanent scarring and color changes to skin, and comes in several forms:
Discoid lupus erythematosus
Lupus erythematosus profundus
Chilblain cutaneous lupus
All lupus-specific rashes are exacerbated by UV light.
- Studies initially suggested that UV-B rays (burning rays)were the most dangerous for people with lupus, but more recently, it has become apparent that UV-A rays (aging rays) are also problematic.
- Individuals with SLE can take preventive measures by avoiding sun exposure and with the awareness that florescent lights also sometimes UV.
Lahita, R.G. and Phillips, R. H. (1998). Lupus Q&A: Everything You Need to Know. New York, NY: Penguin Group Press.
Thomas, D.E. (2014). The Lupus Encyclopedia. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.