Skin lesions in lupus erythematosus: a marker of systemic involvement

Indian J Dermatol. Sep-Oct 2011;56(5):537-40. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.87150.


Background: Lupus erythematosus (LE) is an autoimmune disorder with diverse clinical manifestation ranging from mild cutaneous disorder to life-threatening systemic illness (SLE). In some patients, it remains to persist in the skin-limited form while in others it evolves into SLE. Here comes the role of identifying the markers of systemic involvement, which could determine the course and prognosis of the disease.

Aim: To identify those manifestations that could be used to identify the activity of the disease SLE.

Materials and methods: An institution based, descriptive, cross-sectional study carried out over 1 year period. Sixty patients (male : female 1 : 4) with cutaneous LE were recruited for the study. The patients were classified in two groups depending on the presence or absence of ARA criteria of SLE. Detailed account of LE-specific and nonspecific lesions were noted. Statistical significance of the results was compared between the two groups using the chi-square test.

Results: Among the different cutaneous manifestations, highly significant (P value <0.001) was found between SLE and nonscarring alopecia, photosensitivity, oral ulcer, malar rash (in decreasing order of odds favoring the association with SLE). Dimorphic skin lesions (P value=0.0326) also showed significant association where as discoid lesion (especially localized variant) predicted toward a skin limited form of the disease with high probability of not developing SLE (P value <0.0001). No significant association was found between SLE and papulosquamous lesions, Raynaud's phenomenon or scarring alopecia.

Conclusion: Identification of lesions with high degree of association with SLE can alert the physician of the unfavorable prognosis and allow timely intervention and institution of appropriate management strategies.

Keywords: Cutaneous lupus erythematosus; prognostic marker; systemic lupus erythematosus.