What You Need to Know About Discoid Lupus

What Is Discoid Lupus?

Discoid lupus is a type of lupus that affects the skin. It’s the most common form of cutaneous lupus and tends to cause skin sores, lesions, and rashes above the neckline. Many lesions are discoid, which means shaped like a coin or disc.

As a chronic autoimmune condition, discoid lupus primarily causes inflammation of the skin. Different types of inflammatory skin issues can occur particularly if the skin has been exposed to the sun. Treatment is focused on preventing new lesions, treating them quickly, and limiting scarring.

There are three different types of discoid lupus, including localized, generalized, and childhood. With the most common form, localized discoid lupus, skin lesions cluster above the neck. Generalized discoid lupus is more spread out and may affect areas below the neck.

Childhood discoid lupus is similar to the adult version, but it does have a higher chance of progressing to systemic lupus. Although discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is typically considered to be a separate condition from systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which can affect the entire body, it has been suggested that they may represent a spectrum of lupus instead of being unconnected.

What Causes Discoid Lupus?

Discoid lupus occurs when the immune system begins to attack normal skin as if there were something wrong, such as a virus. Of course, this attack is a mistake – it occurs in the absence of something that would warrant it. As with most autoimmune diseases, the reason why discoid lupus initiates an immune attack has yet to be determined.


As with SLE, the underlying cause of DLE is unknown but may be triggered by exposure to sunlight. Additionally, the illness could be initiated by an increase in female sex hormones, a vitamin D deficiency, or environmental factors such as exposure to silica dust.

Women and African Americans are much more likely to develop discoid lupus than men and Caucasians, respectively. The illness does tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component, and can be exacerbated by stressors such as infection, exhaustion, or trauma.

What Are the Symptoms of Discoid Lupus?

There is a wide range of symptoms that can occur with discoid lupus and they are all focused on the skin. These symptoms may include:

  • Round lesions.
  • Red patches.
  • Thick scales.
  • Crusty skin.
  • Light or dark skin pigmentation.
  • A pink, red, or purple rash.
  • Raw patches.
  • Peeling or blistering skin.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Thickening or thinning of the skin.

These symptoms can occur virtually anywhere on the body, including the ear canal and pelvic area, but some common locations are:

  • Neck.
  • Cheeks.
  • Bridge of the nose.
  • Above lips and ears.
  • Scalp.
  • Elbows.
  • Palms.
  • Soles of feet.

Other symptoms are brittle fingernails and oral lesions such as mouth ulcers and white spots. Hair loss, which can occur with significant damage, is less of a symptom and more of a result of lesions and scars that can cause hair to fall our or prevent hair from regrowing in patches.

Next page: Complications of discoid lupus, how is it diagnosed, and treatment options.

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