Butterfly Rash

What Is Butterfly Rash?

Butterfly rash is a rash on your skin that has similar appearance as a butterfly. It is also known as malar rash. Butterfly rash occurs when a person has lupus or other autoimmune diseases. 1

There are various facial rashes that look like a butterfly and make it hard for people to identify this rash. Butterfly rash affects both of your cheeks especially the upper parts. These rashes on your cheeks are joined together in the middle by the bridge of the nose. Butterfly rash does not affect your nostrils and nose.

Butterfly Rash Picture 1

Fig: butterfly rash

Butterfly rash may vary in shape. In some cases the rash may not appear as butterfly, while for other people the rash may go along with rashes on your forehead, eyelid and jaw. The color and texture of butterfly rash is also different among people.

Other features of butterfly rash include the rash may be red or purple in color. In some people the rash is not painful. The rashes can be scaly when you touch it.

Butterfly rash is short lived. This means it appears suddenly and is severe for a short time and then becomes less painful.


Butterfly is caused by lupus, which is discussed in details below:

Drug induced lupus butter fly rash


Lupus is a condition that occurs when your immune system is overactive. This results in your immune system attacking and destroying your health tissues and organs. This condition is caused by genetic and environmental factors. Lupus is more prevalent in women and affects people who are between 15- 40 years.4

Triggers of Lupus

Although the exact cause of this condition is not known, there are some factors that can trigger lupus. They include:5

Exposure to sun

Sunlight can cause lupus on the skin of a person. When you expose yourself to the sun for long periods, you are more likely to develop lupus skin lesions.


Particular medications can trigger lupus in some people. Drugs such as antibiotics, anti-seizures and those used to treat high blood pressure can elevate your chances of developing lupus.

Drug induced lupus butter fly rash


Signs and symptoms of lupus may come up suddenly and disappear after a short while. The symptoms may range from mild to severe and may also be permanent in some people. One symptom of lupus is presence of a butterfly rash on both cheeks of a patient’s face.

Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • An infected person may feel tired or fatigue and with fever. Some people may feel pain in their joints and joints can also become stiff and swollen. This makes it difficult to move your joints. Skin lesion is also common in people with lupus and this can get worse when exposed to sun.
  • In some cases, the fingers and toes of affected people may change color. They may become blue or white when exposed to very low temperatures or when a person is stressed. Some people can have dry eyes, pain in the chest and short of breath. Headache, confusion and difficult in remembering things is also associated with lupus.

Butterfly Rash Picture 2

Complications Associated

Lupus causing butterfly rash may affect your organs and lead to life-threatening complications such as:

Kidney failure

Lupus can cause serious damage to your kidneys and lead to its total failure. In some cases it causes death due to accumulation of waste materials in the blood. People with kidney problems may have swollen legs, pain the chest, vomiting and nausea.

Brain and nervous system damage

Lupus can also affect your brain by damaging the nerves in the brain. Damage to your brain may lead to poor memory and difficult in expressing yourself. It can also lead to stroke which can cause death. Lupus can also cause headaches, dizziness, seizures and hallucination.

Problems with blood vessels and blood

Lupus can cause serious blood problems such as anemia. Anemia is a condition that develops due to low levels of healthy red blood cells sin your body. Low levels of red blood cells in your blood limits the amount of oxygen your body requires hence impairing vital body functions.

Lupus also causes blood vasculitis7. Vasculitis is a group of diseases that causes inflammation of your blood vessels. Vasculitis damages the walls of various blood vessels in your body. This can cause rashes to develop on your skin and heart failure. Vasculitis can also cause kidney failure and paralysis and stroke.

Vasculitis occurs due to abnormalities in your immune system and it attacks and destroys your health tissues and organs in the body.

Heart problems

Lupus can also cause your heart membrane, muscles and arteries and to become inflamed. This inflammation can cause heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases which can lead to death.

Lung problems

Lupus can cause your chest cavity lining to become inflamed. This makes breathing difficult and painful. When your chest is inflamed, you are also more vulnerable to pneumonia.


People suffering from lupus are more vulnerable to infections. This is because they have a weak immune system which is incapable of defending your body against infections. Common infections associated with lupus include urinary tract infections, herpes, respiratory infections etc.

Pregnancy problems

Expectant women with lupus have higher chances of miscarriage. This is because lupus elevates blood pressure during pregnancy and can also lead to premature birth.

Butterfly Rash Picture 3


Butterfly rash can be treated with following:


Doctors can prescribe corticosteroids lotions and creams to treat butterfly rashes. Corticosteroids creams or lotions can be applied on the affected areas on your cheeks.

Corticosteroids have natural hormone properties and can also regulate your immune system and relieve inflammation in your body. This medication can also cause increase in weight and acne. The side effects can be more severe if you take an overdose of this medication.


Doctors can also recommend antimalarials as an alternative to corticosteroids. Antimalarials were initially developed to treat malaria but they can also manage symptoms of lupus. These drugs can treat problems with your skin and protect you against sunlight.

Avoid excessive UV exposure

Among the symptoms of lupus, a condition associated with butterfly rash is photosensitivity. When you expose yourself to direct sunlight for an extended period, the rash is likely to emerge and look unsightly. So, ensure you limit your exposure to sunlight and if you are going out, make use of sun cream to protect the skin. You may also want to find other ways you can protect the skin such as use of scarves and sunglasses.

Changes in lifestyle

You can also prevent lupus when you limit exposure to sun. This is because sunlight may worsen your butterfly rash. Put on sunscreen to protect yourself from sun.

Another way to prevent lupus symptoms such as fatigue is to have enough rest. Adequate rest will help people with lupus to heal faster. Having a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grain can also help you manage symptoms of lupus.


butterfly rash pictures

butterfly rash images

butter fly rash images

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Reference List

  1. Butterfly Rash Treatment. http://www.livestrong.com/article/550796-butterfly-rash-treatment/
  2. Butterfly Rash. http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/general-health-articles/lupus-rash-signs-symptoms-treatments
  3. Common causes of Butterfly rash. http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/symptoms/butterfly_rash/common.htm
  4. Lupus. http://www.onhealth.com/content/1/lupus_symptoms
  5. Butterfly rash causes. https://www.healthgrades.com/symptoms/butterfly-rash–causes
  6. Butterfly rash.  http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15902/1/What-Is-a-Butterfly-Rash.html
  7. Vasculitis. http://www.medicinenet.com/vasculitis/article.htm

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