Lupus and psoriasis are chronic conditions that have some key similarities and important differences.

Psoriasis, for example, is much more prevalent than lupus. Psoriasis affects about 125 million people worldwide, whereas around 5 million people have lupus.

According to a 2021 study, around 7.5 million Americans 20 years old and over have psoriasis. By race and ethnicity, the prevalence rates are:

  • 3.6% of white people
  • 3.1% of non-Hispanic people, including multiracial people
  • 2.5% of Asian people
  • 1.9% of Hispanic people, including Mexican-Americans
  • 1.5% of Black people

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans have some form of lupus. According to one study, the condition is more common among women and the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) population in the United States.

By race and ethnicity, the prevalence rates are:

  • 26.2% of white people
  • 15.5% of Hispanic people
  • 36.9% of American Pacific Islanders (including Chinese, Philipino, and Vietnamese)
  • 18.8% of Black people

If you have a healthy immune system and you’re injured or become sick, your body will produce antibodies. Antibodies are powerful proteins that help you heal. These antibodies target germs, bacteria, viruses, and other foreign agents.

Your body makes autoantibodies if you have an autoimmune disease like psoriasis or lupus. Autoantibodies mistakenly attack healthy tissue.

In the case of lupus, autoantibodies can cause skin rashes and sore joints. Psoriasis is mostly known for the patches of dry, dead skin plaques that form primarily on the:

  • scalp
  • knees
  • elbows
  • back

Some people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, which makes their joints stiff and sore.

While symptoms of lupus and psoriasis can be noticed on your skin and in your joints, lupus can have more serious complications. The autoantibodies you make when you have lupus can also attack healthy organs.

That can lead to hospitalization in some cases. Lupus can even be a life threatening condition.

Lupus symptoms

Common symptoms of lupus include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • swollen joints
  • hair loss
  • facial rash
  • chest discomfort when taking deep breaths

Your fingers may also change color temporarily if they get cold.

If you have lupus and develop a face rash, the rash will typically appear as a butterfly-shaped rash. It will cover the bridge of your nose and your cheeks. The appearance of the rash can vary on different skin tones.

On light or fair tones, the rash appears as red or pink and can last hours to days. On medium and darker skin tones, the rash can appear either as red, brown, or darker than the original skin color.

Psoriasis symptoms

Psoriasis can be uncomfortable, but it’s not a life threatening disease. The symptoms of psoriasis may include:

  • red or colored patches of skin
  • dry, cracked skin
  • itching
  • burning
  • swollen and stiff joints

Rashes associated with psoriasis can appear anywhere on your body and tend to be covered in silvery scales. However, psoriasis can look different according to your skin tone.

Psoriasis tends to be pink or red with silvery white scales on those with light skin tones. On medium skin tones, it can appear salmon-colored with silvery-white scales. On darker skin tones, psoriasis appears more as purple patches with gray scales. The patches can also appear in a dark brown color.

Psoriasis rashes are often itchy, while rashes from lupus typically aren’t.

Lupus and psoriasis can both flare up, often unexpectedly. You can have lupus or psoriasis but go through long periods where you experience no noticeable symptoms. Flare-ups are usually caused by specific triggers.

Stress is a common trigger for both psoriasis and lupus. Stress management techniques are worth learning if you have either condition.

A psoriasis flare-up can also follow any type of injury or damage to the skin, such as:

  • sunburn
  • a cut or scrape
  • a vaccination or other type of shot

Too much sun can also lead to a lupus flare-up.

While you should maintain good health for many reasons, it’s especially important to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you have lupus:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Get plenty of rest and exercise.

These steps may help reduce the severity of symptoms and help you recover faster if you do have a flare-up.

Here you will find pictures showcasing the difference between how psoriasis and lupus can appear on the skin.

Psoriasis can affect anyone at any age, but the most common age ranges are between 20 and 30 years and between 50 and 60 years. Psoriatic arthritis typically develops in the 30s and 40s.

It’s not fully understood why people get psoriasis, but there appears to be a strong genetic link. Having a relative with psoriasis makes you more likely to develop it.

It’s also not clear why people get lupus. Women in their teens through their 40s are at much higher risk of lupus than anyone else. Hispanic, African American and Asian people also face a greater risk of developing lupus.

It’s important to note that lupus can appear in both women and men, and people of all ages can get it.

There are only a few medications for lupus. These include:

  • corticosteroids
  • antimalarial drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • belimumab (Benlysta), which is a monoclonal antibody

Psoriasis is also treated with corticosteroids. Usually, they’re in topical ointment form for mild psoriasis. Depending on the severity of symptoms, there are many psoriasis treatments, including phototherapy, systemic medications, and biologic drugs.

Topical retinoids, which also treat acne, are commonly prescribed to treat psoriasis.

See your doctor if you develop symptoms of lupus, such as:

  • a painful joint
  • unexplained fever
  • chest pain
  • unusual rash

You’ll be asked for information about your symptoms. If you have what you think were flare-ups, be sure to give your doctor a detailed medical history. A rheumatologist, a specialist in joint and muscle disorders, treats lupus.

Depending on how your particular lupus affects your body, you may need to go to another specialist, such as a dermatologist or gastroenterologist.

Likewise, see your primary care physician or dermatologist if you see dry patches of skin form anywhere on your body. You may also be referred to a rheumatologist if you have swollen, stiff, or painful joints.