Lupus butterfly rash affects more than half of the people affected by systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The shape of the skin rash is characterized by the shape that is similar to that of a butterfly, hence the name, 'butterfly rash'. The classic rash is observed on the cheeks and is therefore, also known as malar rash. The development of butterfly rash is the first sign of lupus.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body's cells and organs. This leads to the dysfunction and damage of the organs. The organs that are prone to damage are brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, tissues, skin, joints, and blood vessels. It is observed in women more often than men and affects people in the age group of 15 to 50 years.
The lupus butterfly rash was first observed in 1840s by a Dr. Ferdinand von Hebra in Vienna. He said that this condition on the face was a symptom of lupus that was caused due to the angle on the stream of sunlight that hit the face. The appearance of the rash was due to the immune system attacking the healthy skin tissue and could be differentiated from sun burns, due to its shape.
One can observe butterfly rash on the arms, legs, and trunk in the same pattern. It rarely itches and is not associated with any kind of pain. One may sometimes experience a burning sensation on the rash. It is a symptom of lupus and can indicate the disease. In people who are detected with lupus, the butterfly rashes that flare up after a period of remission may be a sign that this medical condition is attacking the healthy skin.
The symptoms are mild to severe. The mild symptoms are slightly blush-like and can be a scaly rash in severe cases. The butterfly rash may be observed only for a few days or may last for months. The rash is seen on the cheeks and nose and may be flat or raised. It may appear and get worse with exposure to sun (photosensitivity) or increase to the other parts of the skin, due to stress. It may be very light in color that looks as if there is a slight brush of color on the cheeks or it may be dark red in color. The rash shows the angle of the sun shining on the face of the person.
One can prevent this condition by wearing a wide-brimmed hat outdoors. If one is already affected by the problem, avoid going outside when the sun is hottest during the day. One should wear UVA and UVB sunscreen with SPF of 30, when traveling outdoors. One can use a sun shade for the windows to prevent sunrays from falling on their skin.
This is a chronic disease that has no known cure. The treatment is mostly symptomatic and involves prevention of flares and reducing their severity. The doctor may advice non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antimalarial drugs to treat the symptoms involving SLE. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be used to help reduce the flare-ups and the process of disease.
Immunosuppressive drugs are prescribed in severe cases that help in controlling the disease and preventing the recurrence of symptoms. One needs to avoid sunlight as much as possible, as it aggravates the symptoms. One should avoid exposure to silica, pesticides, and mercury. Furthermore, one needs to change their diet to a low-fat, vegetarian diet to lessen the lupus symptoms.
Pregnant mothers with lupus should be under doctors care throughout pregnancy as babies can get neonatal lupus, although it is rare. To avoid any complications, mothers should follow the doctor's advice until delivery. In case of natural treatment, one can try applying vitamin E oil on the affected area. One should let the oil stay on the rash for 15 to 20 minutes and then, rinse off with cold water. One can also try applying cod liver oil or olive oil on the rashes. To reduce irritation, apply a little baking soda on the affected area.
One can add 2 cups of oatmeal to warm water in the bathtub and soak themselves in the water for 20 to 30 minutes everyday. Fresh aloe vera gel applied on the rash, 2 to 3 times a day can help reduce the pain and aid in the healing process.
On observation of the rashes, one should visit the doctor immediately. Timely treatment will help control the disease and reduce the flare-ups of butterfly rash on the skin.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.