Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and while many of us focus on keeping it looking youthful and wrinkle-free, it could also be a vehicle through which other parts of your body signal that an illness or disease is brewing. Sudden onset of blistering, scaliness, discoloration, or a rash could point to an autoimmune condition, an allergy, a virus, or even heart disease. And if you notice a particular rash in one area in particular, it may be time to reach out to a doctor for some bloodwork.
Read on to find out more about the unique facial rash that’s often misdiagnosed.
The butterfly rash is commonly used as a marker for identifying lupus.
If you notice a red rash across your cheeks and the bridge of your nose, it could be a malar rash. Also known as a butterfly rash, according to the Mayo Clinic, this skin condition is often red, pink, or purple, and can appear as blotchy, scaly, smooth, or raised. While the butterfly rash may come and go within a period of days or weeks, it can be a symptom of a wide-range of underlying health problems, including lupus.
As Maryann Mikhail, MD, writes for GoodRx, the rash is actually considered a telltale sign of lupus. In fact, about 50 percent of all lupus patients develop a butterfly rash, according to Johns Hopkins Lupus Center.
Lupus is a complicated autoimmune disease that affects people’s skin in addition to their kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, and joints. According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of lupus include fatigue, hair loss, sensitivity to light, dry eyes, brain fog, and joint pain.
The butterfly rash is often mistaken for sunburn or rosacea.
The butterfly rash is also a common sign of rosacea, a bacterial infection called cellulitis, and lyme disease, among other conditions, Healthline explains. It can also mimic sunburn.
Therefore, it’s entirely possible for you to dismiss it or for your doctor to mistake it, especially for rosacea. “While a rosacea rash may look like lupus, the difference is that a lupus rash doesn’t have red bumps that are typical of rosacea, although the rash can be raised,” according to Everyday Health.
Since it can be easily confused for other conditions, if you notice this rash, ask your doctor to order a blood test to get to the root of the problem. They can look for antiphospholipid antibodies, antinuclear antibodies, or a low platelet count to see if it is lupus.
In general, lupus can be difficult to diagnose.
Lupus is regularly referred to as the great imitator. According to expert Marisa Zeppieri, an author with lupus who founded LupusChick, “symptoms come and go, and mimic many other diseases.” This often leads to misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment plans. According to a 2016 LupusChick research study, the “average time span between initial symptoms and diagnosis [is] six years.”