Everything You Need to Know About Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus: 10 Telltale Symptoms

Introduction: Understanding Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE) is a term that might not be familiar to many, but it’s a condition that impacts thousands of people worldwide. CLE is a form of lupus, an autoimmune disease that turns your body’s defense system against itself. Instead of fighting off viruses and bacteria, your immune system targets your healthy cells and tissues. In CLE, this battle primarily takes place on the skin, resulting in various symptoms that can be as confusing as they are concerning.


In this article, we will explore the depths of CLE, focusing on the ten most common symptoms and what exactly this condition is. We will also discuss how to recognize and manage these symptoms, and the importance of early detection and treatment for those affected by CLE.

Lupus is a complex and multifaceted disease, and Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus is no different. As one of the three types of lupus, CLE primarily affects the skin, causing a range of skin-related symptoms. It can exist on its own or alongside Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), a form of lupus affecting multiple body systems. CLE can further be divided into subtypes, including chronic cutaneous lupus (Discoid Lupus Erythematosus), subacute cutaneous lupus, and acute cutaneous lupus.

Delving Deeper into Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus

The most common form of CLE, Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE), presents itself as red, scaly, and disk-shaped lesions on the skin. These lesions predominantly occur on the face, ears, scalp, and at times, on other body parts exposed to the sun. DLE can lead to changes in skin color and severe scarring if left untreated. It’s worth noting that while DLE affects the skin, about 5% of DLE cases can evolve into SLE, emphasizing the importance of early detection and treatment.

In contrast to DLE, Acute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (ACLE) and Subacute Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (SCLE) are often associated with systemic lupus and are less likely to cause scarring. ACLE typically presents as a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, while SCLE shows up as red, scaly patches on sun-exposed areas of the body.

Now that we have a general understanding of what Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus is and its various forms, let’s dive into the top 10 symptoms that can help you identify and understand this condition better.

Symptom 1: Red, Scaly Lesions

Red, Scaly Lesions


One of the most common signs of Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus, especially in the Discoid form, is the presence of red, scaly lesions. These typically appear as round, disk-shaped patches on the skin. Notably, these lesions are not just a cosmetic concern; they signal an ongoing immune response that can potentially damage the skin tissue.

These lesions primarily occur on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, ears, and scalp. However, they can also appear on other body parts, causing discomfort and, in some cases, itching. These lesions are generally thick and scaly, and they may also cause the skin to change color.

If these lesions are left untreated, they can cause permanent scarring and discoloration, which can be psychologically distressing for the individual. In some severe cases, these lesions may also lead to hair loss, especially when they occur on the scalp. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical attention at the earliest signs of these symptoms to prevent permanent damage.

The treatment of these lesions involves topical creams and ointments, systemic medications, and, in some cases, corticosteroid injections. However, the most crucial aspect of managing this symptom is to protect the skin from the sun, as sun exposure can exacerbate the condition. (1)

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