What Is Discoid Lupus Erythematosus? Its Symptoms And Treatment

Discoid lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune skin disorder. It is characterized by red and round scaly patches on the skin, usually exposed to sunlight. The lesions are generally situated on face and hands. At times the lesions are widespread and can be seen on neck and back as well. Other prominent features include hair loss and change in the color of skin. Women are more affected than men.

The disease is present in people between the age of 20 and 40 years. Hereditary trait is also suspected to be a reason for development of this skin condition.

Cure is not certain, but discoid lupus can be managed with proper medication and avoiding exposure to sunlight. With inadequate treatment, there is a risk of permanent scarring.

Symptoms Of Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

  • Development of red scaly patch on the skin, resulting in pigmentation, atrophy and white scars.
  • The red inflammatory patches are symptomless in most cases. Mild irritation and itching may be seen in some cases.
  • Prominently the area affected is face and back of hands. Lesions seldom occur on palms and soles.
  • The red lesions may become rough and scarred, especially on the back of hands and arms.
  • Hair loss and permanent scarring of skin is often noted on scalp.
  • Lip and oral cavity can be affected. This may cause ulcer and scaling of mucus membrane.
  • White discoloration of scarred surface.
  • Lesions are aggravated from sunlight.

At least 5 to 10 percent of patient with discoid lupus may develop more severe condition called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There is involvement of inner body organs. The symptoms of SLE are serious and can be life threatening at times.

Discoid Lupus Causes And Diagnosis

Researchers are unable to detect the exact cause of discoid lupus. They presume it to be an autoimmune disease. It means the immune system of the body attacks the healthy body cells, for reasons that are not known. Some researchers believe it has genetic relation.

Family history is considered to be a risk factor in development of this disease. Exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoking as well as intake of tobacco in any form is believed to be another risk factor for aggravating the condition.


  • It is essential to diagnose and differentiate DLE and SLE as the skin lesions are almost similar in both.
  • Blood test: ANA (anti nuclear antibody) test is positive in most cases. There is raised ESR. Rheumatoid Factor (RA Factor) is positive.
  • Urine test: Albumin may be present in urine analysis.
  • Skin biopsy is essential to rule out other causes.

Treatment For Discoid Lupus

  • Applying corticosteroid creams locally.
  • Steroid injection into the lesions.
  • Anti malarial medication helps to reduce the symptoms. Patient should be monitored closely when he takes anti malarial for long duration.
  • Immunosuppresive agents as well as retinoids are also effective.

Surgical excision of scars is possible. Physicians also rely on laser therapy in certain circumstances.

Discoid lupus erythematosus can be easily controlled when the patient avoids certain triggering factors.

  • Avoid sunlight. Patient has to carry an umbrella to protect the skin from direct sunrays.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Should wear protective gear and cover his head when moving in sunlight.
  • Regular follow up with the physician is essential.

Certain dietary tips are valuable for DLE:

  • Increase intake of omega 3 fatty acid. It is beneficial in reducing the inflammation associated with DLE. Eat flaxseeds, tuna fish, salmon etc.