Cutaneous manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus

Br J Dermatol. 1996 Sep;135(3):355-62.


We have assessed the cutaneous signs in 73 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), seen during a 5-year period in an English hospital. Most previous information about the cutaneous manifestations of SLE has been obtained from studies performed in the U.S.A. We classified lesions as specific cutaneous and mucosal LE (acute, subacute and chronic) or non-specific LE-related, e.g. photosensitivity, urticaria, erythema, Raynaud's phenomenon or vasculitis. Acute cutaneous LE lesions included a butterfly rash with erythematous macules, telangiectasia or papulosquamous lesions, seen in 37 patients (51%) and facial oedema seen in four patients (5%). Five patients (7%) had psoriasiform subacute cutaneous LE. Chronic cutaneous LE was common: 18 patients (25%) had chronic discoid lesions (DLE) and, in 12 (15%), these had preceded systemic disease. One patient had facial lupus profundus. Ten patients (14%) had scarring alopecia secondary to DLE. Fifteen patients (20.5%) had chronic chilblain lupus. Twenty-three patients (31.5%) had a history of mouth ulceration. Of these, 11 (15%) gave a history of ulcers at the onset of their disease. Three (4%) had erythema and superficial ulceration of the palate, not typical of aphthous ulcers, and three (4%) had chronic buccal plaques. Cheilitis due to DLE was seen in three (4%), episcleritis in three (4%), five (7%) had nasal disease, six (8%) bullous skin eruptions, one 'the bullous eruption of SLE', four bullae associated with cutaneous vasculitis, and one bullae associated with ultraviolet radiation. Forty-six (63%) observed photosensitivity. A non-scarring alopecia occurred in 29 (40%). Vascular phenomena were common: three patients (4%) had chronic palmar erythema, Raynaud's phenomenon occurred in 44 patients (60%), chronic urticaria, worsened by sun exposure, was noted by 32 (44%) (in whom the lesions often lasted more than 36 h), eight (11%) had cutaneous vasculitis and three (4%) livedo reticularis. Skin changes play a prominent part in SLE and may provide helpful diagnostic information. In this British population, chilblains and urticaria were particularly common. Lesions of subacute cutaneous LE were relatively unusual in this group of patients with SLE.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alopecia / etiology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Discoid / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Diseases / etiology
  • Mouth Diseases / pathology
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / etiology
  • Skin Diseases / etiology*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology
  • Skin Diseases, Vascular / etiology
  • Ulcer / etiology
  • Ulcer / pathology