Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation in your joints, skin and major organs. Although there is no cure, symptoms can be treated with medication. Regular, moderate exercise is also beneficial. While a flushed face is a common consequence of exercise -- both for people who have lupus and those who do not -- a butterfly-shaped flush across your cheeks and nose is a classic lupus symptom. Its appearance may indicate that a flare -- or worsening of symptoms -- is imminent.
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The most common -- and the most serious -- form of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the disease flaring up and subsiding unpredictably. In addition to the characteristic butterfly-shaped facial rash, signs of lupus can include joint pain; fatigue; fever; changes in weight; hair loss; shortness of breath; and a tendency to bruise easily. You may also experience anxiety, depression, confusion and memory loss. Complications from lupus can be serious and may include kidney damage, cognitive dysfunction and increased cancer risk. The cause of lupus is unknown; genetics and environment may play a role. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, or immunosuppressive drugs. MayoClinic.com reports that exposure to both sunlight and fluorescent light can trigger a flare; infections and certain medications can also act as triggers.
According to a 2002 article in "American Family Physician," 90 percent of lupus patients eventually display symptoms on skin. Butterfly rash -- medically known as malar rash -- can be either flat or raised and may range in intensity from a faint flush to a deep crimson discoloration. Although it is usually painless, some patients report itching or burning. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream to treat the rash.
Flushing During Exercise
General facial flushing during exercise is caused by the dilation of your blood vessels because of increased circulation. Facial flushing can also result from sunburn. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, two-thirds of lupus sufferers have increased sensitivity to ultraviolet rays. If you have not been diagnosed with lupus and notice flushing and redness in a butterfly pattern on your face during exercise, consult your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with lupus, call your doctor if a butterfly rash appears on your face during exercise; it may signal an oncoming flare. If you already have a butterfly rash, the increased blood flow to your face caused by exercise can make it more visible.
Even though exercise may make your rash temporarily more noticeable, it carries substantial benefits. The Lupus Foundation of America recommends regular, moderate exercise to help strengthen bones, tone muscles, improve flexibility and range of motion, and help to relieve the stress, depression and fatigue that can accompany lupus. According to "American Family Physician," obesity and high blood pressure are associated with lupus; exercise can help reduce your risk of these conditions. MayoClinic.com recommends 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week. The LFA advises walking, swimming, bicycling, and light resistance training. Protect yourself from heat and excessive sun by exercising indoors, or schedule workouts for early morning and evening. Always use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30; a broad-brimmed hat can provide further protection. Before beginning an exercise routine for lupus, consult your doctor.