Overview of common, rare and atypical manifestations of cutaneous lupus erythematosus and histopathological correlates

Lupus. 2010 Aug;19(9):1050-70. doi: 10.1177/0961203310370048.


The skin is the second most frequently affected organ system in lupus erythematosus. Although only very rarely life threatening--an example is lupus erythematosus-associated toxic epidermal necrolysis--skin disease contributes disproportionally to disease burden in terms of personal and psychosocial wellbeing, vocational disability, and hence in medical and social costs. Since several manifestations are closely associated with the presence and activity of systemic lupus erythematosus, prompt and accurate diagnosis of cutaneous lupus erythematosus is essential. This review aims to cover common, rare, and atypical manifestations of lupus erythematosus-associated skin disease with a detailed discussion of histopathological correlates. Cutaneous lupus erythematosus covers a wide morphological spectrum well beyond acute, subacute and chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus, which are commonly classified as lupus-specific skin disease. Other uncommon or less well-known manifestations include lupus erythematosus tumidus, lupus profundus, chilblain lupus, mucosal lupus erythematosus, and bullous lupus erythematosus. Vascular manifestations include leukocytoclastic and urticarial vasculitis, livedoid vasculopathy and livedo reticularis/ racemosa. Finally, we discuss rare presentations such as lupus erythematosus-related erythema exsudativum multiforme (Rowell syndrome), Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease, extravascular necrotizing palisaded granulomatous dermatitis (Winkelmann granuloma), and neutrophilic urticarial dermatosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / physiopathology*
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin Diseases, Vascular / etiology
  • Skin Diseases, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology
  • Vascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Vasculitis / etiology
  • Vasculitis / physiopathology