Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune system disease that may take three forms: discoid lupus (chronic cutaneous), subacute cutaeous and acute cutaneous. The subacute cutaneous lupus typically manifests solely on the skin, but in some cases, it may also involve the joints.

Subacute Cutaneous Lupus

The subacute cutaneous lupus is a disease that will manifest through skin lesions, but typically, there will be no systemic symptoms. The immune system will cause the lesions, as it will react negatively to certain triggers. The subacute cutaneous lupus is less severe than the systemic lupus, but the lesions may leave scars in some cases. There are certain triggers that will activate the disease and lead to the occurrence of the lesions such as exposure to sun or artificial UV rays, stress or continuous exposure to harsh chemicals. The exact causes of subacute cutaneous lupus are unknown, but many suspect genetic factors.

Symptoms of Subacute Cutaneous Lupus

The subacute cutaneous lupus will have symptoms that are visible on the skin:

  • Lesions that are present on the arms, neck, shoulders or trunk; in rare cases, the scaly patches may also affect the face
  • The lesions will be round and flaking at the edges
  • In rare cases, there may be arthritis symptoms (joint inflammation and pain)

The lesions may be present for a few weeks and disappear, but they may also leave scars. The lesions may be mistaken for psoriasis, so a clear diagnosis is needed.

Diagnosing Subacute Cutaneous Lupus

The diagnosis of subacute cutaneous lupus will be done judging by the symptoms of the patient. There are differences between the discoid lupus, systemic lupus and subacute cutaneous lupus, visible mainly on the skin. In the case of systemic and discoid lupus, the butterfly-shaped rashes will be present; in the case of subacute cutaneous lupus, the lesions will be irregularly distributed on the body and rarely seen on the face. Blood tests should be performed to see if there are additional abnormalities that may influence the diagnosis. The patient should also be tested for arthritis (x-rays are performed).

Treatment for Subacute Cutaneous Lupus

The treatment for subacute cutaneous lupus will be made up mainly of topical products that will eliminate the lesions. However, if the lesions persist, corticosteroids will be administered, to suppress the immune system that causes the subacute cutaneous lupus. The patient should be monitored constantly, to make sure he won't develop systemic lupus. This is rare, but may happen. If the patient experiences joint pain, he will get analgesics and possibly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Prevent Lupus Flare Ups

The skin will be sensitive to light in the case of patients diagnosed with subacute cutaneous lupus, so a high SPF cream should be used. Exposure to sun or artificial UV rays should be avoided as much as possible. Stress, hormonal treatment and other triggers of lupus flare-ups should be avoided.