Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

Discoid lupus erythematosus is characterized by red and scaly rashes or disk-shaped lesions developing in the face, hands, neck and upper back part.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is a type of lupus characterized by red and scaly rashes or lesions developing in the face and hands. It can also spread across the body such as the neck and upper back part. It is referred to as discoid or “disk” because of the shape of the lesions.

Oftentimes people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are 20% at risk of developing DLE and 5% of DLE patients develop SLE. Discoid lupus erythematosus should not be taken for granted as it may be an indication of a life-threatening symptom of lupus.

Although no cause has been identified for SLE, genetic factors are being considered  and investigated by major researches worldwide. Similarly, no cure for lupus has been discovered but DLE patients can do well in managing the disease through medications and by keeping away from exposure to sun rays.


People with discoid lupus are alarmed because of the lesions and pigmentations on the face, hand and neck areas. Here are some of the most common symptoms of DLE:

  • Red, scaly and round lesions on sun-exposed areas
  • Patches leading to baldness or alopecia if the scalp has lesions
  • Scarring or discoloration when patches heal
  • Blemish on the legs
  • Chilblains or tiny, itchy, painful lumps on the skin
  • Reduced blood flow causing toes and nails to turn pale and blue (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Painful joints
  • Photosensitivity


There are various treatment for discoid lupus erythematosus. After physical examination, medical history, several blood tests to identify the antibodies, and biopsy of the skin lesion, the doctor can prescribe treatment option that must be followed for best result.

  • Avoid exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays so that flares may not worsen.
  • Apply topical steroid cream to affected areas
  • Wrap skin with plastic for better absorption of steroid cream
  • Take antimalarial drugs like plaquenil or those for psoriasis
  • For thick lesions, injections of medications are recommended
  • Take oral steroids or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
    Discoid lupus erythematosus, as mentioned earlier, may be a sign of systemic lupus erythematosus. Mild symptoms may recur but it may also be coupled with other symptoms of serious complications. Immediately seek medical attention or call emergency 911 if you experience pain in the chest, excessive sweating and severe difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate or problem with urinating.

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