There are four types of lupus, and each type can be identified by the unique skin rashes it forms.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
SLE is the most commonly reported form of lupus, affecting different organs around your body, hence the name "systemic." This type of lupus may not produce rashes, since it affects the internal organs, such as your veins, lungs, or digestive system.
SLE can also cause a condition called "lupus nephritis" where your kidneys suffer damage. You may see blood in your urine, along with high blood pressure, if you have this condition.1
It is also characterized by having multiple symptoms, such as fatigue, sensitivity to sunlight, pulmonary hypertension, joint pain and rashes. In short, symptoms that do not fall under the other types of lupus mentioned in this article can be classified as SLE.2
As the name implies, this type of lupus is caused by drugs used to treat a particular disease. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, the symptoms are similar to SLE, but it rarely attacks major organs.3
• Hydralazine: high blood pressure
• Procainamide: irregular heart rhythms
• Isoniazid: tuberculosis
• D-penicillamine: metal poisoning
• Minocycline: acne
• Anti-TNF: rheumatoid arthritis
The Lupus Center notes that these drugs are falling out of favor due to their known risk of causing lupus in a patient.
Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE)
CLE is a form of lupus that only affects the skin, and is broken down into several types depending on the rashes it creates:6
• Chronic Cutaneous Lupus (CCLE)
The most common form of CCLE is discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), named for its disc-like rashes. Normally, the rashes that appear on the facial area, such as the forehead and cheeks, are red and scaly, but interestingly, they aren't actually itchy. Once the rashes subside, scarring and hair loss may occur.
• Subacute Cutaneous Lupus (SCLE)
This type of lupus is categorized by two types of rashes: papulosquamous and annular lesions. Papulosquamous lesions are red, scaly patches that resemble psoriasis rashes, while annular lesions are ring-shaped rashes that have a small amount of scales on their edges.
• Acute Cutaneous Lupus (ACLE)
ACLE is characterized by sunburn-like rashes on the cheeks, called a butterfly rash. Large, flat red patches can also be present on the arms, legs and torso. Another characteristic of ACLE is its sensitivity to light, and therefore appears on areas of skin that are exposed to sunlight. Once ACLE rashes subside, they do not leave scarring, but may change the pigment of the area affected.
Neonatal Lupus Erythematosus
This rare condition affects unborn infants, even if the mother may not have lupus herself. Antibodies called anti-Ro, anti-La, and anti-RNP produced in 1 in 1,000 women are suggested to be the cause of neonatal lupus.
Only the infant's skin is affected with lupus, and symptoms go away several months after birth, even without treatment. An important note – neonatal lupus can give your infant a congenital heart block, although it’s generally rare, occurring in only 1 to 2 percent of infants with this illness. Proper testing is advised when the infant is born so that lupus can be immediately ruled out, or the heart block can be treated immediately.7