Treating Lupus Skin Problems
Lupus can cause a lot of different skin problems, and there are many different kinds of medicines that can treat them. A special doctor called a dermatologist can help you find a treatment plan that works for you.
Before starting treatment, the dermatologist may do a test called a biopsy to find out what type of skin problem you have. They’ll take a very small piece of your skin and look at it under a microscope. This is a simple test your dermatologist can do at their office.
What are the treatments for lupus skin problems?
Sometimes you can treat lupus skin problems with creams or gels that you put directly on your skin. You may also need to take pills or other treatments that affect all the systems in your body.
Steroids can help with skin inflammation. Depending on the type of skin problem you have, you may need to take steroids as creams, pills, or injections.
Taking steroids for a long time can increase your risk for infections and other serious health problems, including heart disease. If you take steroids for skin problems, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.
Medicines called immunomodulators or immunosuppressives can keep your immune system from attacking your skin.
A type of medicine called a calcineurin inhibitor helps with skin inflammation by blocking a certain protein in the blood (called calcineurin). You can put these medicines directly on your skin. Calcineurin inhibitors include:
- Tacrolimus ointment (Protopic®)
- Pimecrolimus cream (Elidel®)
Your doctor may also recommend pills, including:
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex®)
- Azathioprine (Imuran®)
- Mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept®)
- Thalidomide (Thalomid®)
Immunomodulators or immunosuppressives can make it harder for your body to fight infections. If you take these medicines, talk with your doctor about taking steps to prevent infections.
Some lupus medicines aren’t safe to take when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk with your doctors about which treatment options are safe for you and your baby.
Antimalarial medicines help protect skin from rashes and ultraviolet (UV) light. Antimalarial pills include:
- Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®)
- Chloroquine (Aralen®)
Taking antimalarials for a long time may increase your risk for eye problems. If you take antimalarials, talk with your doctor about getting regular eye exams.
Do you have an experience with lupus to share?
Join our lupus registry, RAY, to use your experience to advance research.
Other medicines for skin problems
Some people take other types of medicines for lupus skin problems, including:
- A type of antibiotic called sulfones (like Dapsone®)
- Retinoid medicine (like Accutane®, a vitamin A derivative)
Keep an eye out for side effects
Any medicine you take for lupus skin problems can have side effects. Talk with your doctors about what changes to watch for with the medicines you’re taking. And tell them right away if you have any side effects.
Remember, it can take months to find the right combination of medicines for your lupus skin symptoms. But you can work with your dermatologist and other doctors to find the treatment plan that’s right for you.