Most common form of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus. Lesions are well-demarcated erythematous macules or papules with a scaly surface, which frequently evolve into larger coin-shaped plaques; typically neither pruritic nor painful.
Age of onset usually between 20 and 40 years. Lesions often precipitated or aggravated by ultraviolet light exposure; smoking also considered a risk factor.
Over time, lesions slowly expand, producing areas of peripheral inflammation or hyperpigmentation, leaving a central region of scarring with telangiectasia and hypopigmentation.
Diagnosis is usually made on clinical grounds, but if in doubt is confirmed with a skin biopsy.
The mainstay of treatment is topical corticosteroids, or oral antimalarials if no response.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin. DLE lesions begin as well-demarcated erythematous macules or papules with a scaly surface, and frequently evolve into larger coin-shaped plaques. In most DLE patients the condition remains confined to the skin; antinuclear antibodies (ANA) are often negative or present in a low titre. Approximately 5% to 10% of patients may develop a mild form of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). DLE-like lesions occur in up to 25% of patients with SLE.
History and exam
Key diagnostic factors
- disc-shaped erythematous maculopapular scaly lesions
- age 20 to 40 years
- history of ultraviolet light exposure
- smoking history
Other diagnostic factors
- absence of pruritus and/or pain
- telangiectasia, hyperpigmentation and/or hypopigmentation
- permanent scarring alopecia
- systemic features (arthritis, pleuritis, pericarditis, seizures, psychosis)
- age 20 to 40 years
- ultraviolet light exposure
- female sex
- non-specific skin injury
1st investigations to order
- antinuclear antibodies, double-stranded (ds) DNA
- urea and electrolytes
Investigations to consider
- skin biopsy
Meng May Chee, MBChB, MRCP
Wishaw General Hospital
MMC declares that she has no competing interests.
Rajan Madhok, MD, FRCP(Glasg)
Consultant Physician and Rheumatologist
Department of Rheumatology
Glasgow Royal Infirmary
RM has declared a stock holding in GSK.
Jeffrey P. Callen, MD
Professor of Medicine (Dermatology)
University of Louisville
JPC declares that he has no competing interests.
Mark Goodfield, MD
Department of Dermatology
Leeds General Infirmary
MG declares that he has no competing interests.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE)
- S2k guideline for treatment of cutaneous lupus erythematosus - guided by the European Dermatology Forum (EDF) in cooperation with the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV)
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