Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease that can attack any part of the body, including major organs like the kidneys, heart, and brain. It can affect your skin, hair, joints, and even your blood. It’s estimated that approximately 1.5 million Americans have lupus — more than those with multiple sclerosis or type 1 diabetes — but many patients are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because they share similar symptoms with other conditions such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
Here are ten symptoms to watch out for if you suspect you might have lupus. Read on to learn about each one.
Some lupus patients experience hair loss or hair thinning, due to inflammation around hair follicles and the scalp. It’s also entirely possible to lose eyelashes and eyebrows. Patients with beards may notice thinning facial hair or bald patches.
Hair loss can have devastating effects on a person’s self-confidence levels. The next symptoms can have devastating effects on a pesron’s cardiovascular system…
Raynaud’s disease is a condition in the cardiovascular system that causes blood vessels to contract. This contraction naturally restricts blood flow, typically in a person’s hands or feet.
Raynaud’s disease is seen in approximately one-third of patients who have lupus.
Raynaud’s in patients with lupus is most often caused by inflammation of blood vessels or nerves due to cold temperatures or stress.
Raynaud’s isn’t a common symptom of many diseases, unlike the following…
One common sign of lupus is a rash shaped like a butterfly stretched across the patient’s nose and cheeks. It’s also possible for purplish rashes to appear in other places, such as the arms or even legs.
While a significant percentage of people with lupus get this rash, not all will. That means that the rash alone is not enough to diagnose lupus. However, the rash along with several other lupus symptoms and the results of a blood test can often be enough to diagnose the condition.
The following symptoms aren’t always recognizable to the naked eye…
One of the early symptoms of lupus is joint pain, which can appear in wrists, fingers, knees, ankles, elbows, and shoulders.
Joint pain is common in many physical illnesses, not just lupus. For instance, those who suffer from arthritis may experience pain in joints, too. There is an important distinction between lupus and arthritis-induced joint pain, though. For those with lupus, joint pain is most often temporary. By contrast, joint pain in arthritis sufferers tends to be chronic.
Joint pain can keep someone from getting up and moving. The next symptom, however, can keep someone with lupus literally confined to the house during the day…
Sun Sensitivity (Photosensitivity)
A lupus patient with photosensitivity may be more prone to developing rashes. Specifically, the common butterfly skin rash associated with lupus can be triggered by sun sensitivity. Some patients will also have disk-shaped patches of scaly skin due to sun exposure.
Just remember: Although rashes occur in more than half of lupus patients, not everyone with the condition will develop a rash.
The next symptom of lupus can be extremely disheartening to some…
Fatigue and Anemia
Anemia is a common condition caused by an inadequate amount of circulating red blood cells. Now, anemia alone is not enough to diagnose a person with lupus. In fact, many health conditions list anemia as a symptom.
Once a person develops anemia, they often report fatigue. It’s important to note that fatigue is not the same as simply being tired. Fatigue is intense exhaustion that even naps and long nights of sleep don’t fix.
Fatigue and anemia alone are hard to trace back to lupus without a blood test, much like the following…
Fever is one symptom that typically appears during a lupus flare-up.
Lupus can cause fevers by triggering body inflammatory responses or even making someone more susceptible to infections.
Fever is hard to point to any specific condition. The following condition, which may be caused by lupus, is more often attributed to more well-known diseases like arthritis…
Weight Loss or Weight Gain
People with lupus may experience changes in their weight.
Lupus may cause weight loss by affecting appetite.
Additionally, it may cause weight gain by limiting activity and mobility via joint pain, photosensitivity, or even decreased energy levels. Lupus may also cause some people to eat unhealthy diets, which may lead to weight gain.
Weight changes alone are not enough to warrant a lupus diagnosis. After all, weight change is attributable to many conditions. The following lupus symptom is also common in many other illnesses…
Enlarged Lymph Nodes
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, organs, and lymph nodes located throughout the body. The head and neck region as well as the groin and armpits, for example, have many lymph nodes. When lymph nodes swell, they are commonly in these areas.
Lupus is a disease that impacts the immune system. In other words, lupus increases a patient’s risk of infection. A common symptom of many, many infections? Swollen lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes may be easy enough to spot when large. However, this next condition should be easy enough to spot even when relatively small…
Sores in the Mouth and Nose
Approximately half of all lupus patients experience mouth sores at some point or another. In fact, mouth sores are one of the most common features seen in lupus patients.
Lupus-related mouth sores are sometimes referred to as ulcers, or discoid lupus lesions. The sores are red in appearance and have a white ring or halo around them.
Lupus-related mouth sores may appear on the roof of the mouth, the gums, cheeks, or lips.
The sores are not typically life-threatening. In most cases, the sores are painless, though a small percentage of patients report pain. Some patients may experience soreness or a burning sensation in the mouth.
While sores can be unsightly, they typically aren’t as alarming as the following symptom…
Lupus patients should visit their doctor regularly and beware of heart trouble. After all, lupus raises a patient’s risk of developing heart disease or a stroke.
Some physicians think this increased risk is due to inflammation, particularly in the heart or the sac surrounding it. The side effects of certain drugs used to treat lupus could also raise the risk of heart problems.
Swelling can cause a sharp pain in the patient’s chest or heart. This pain can increase when the patient takes a sharp or deep breath.
If chest pain comes with other symptoms, such as shortness of breath or clamminess, someone should seek immediate medical help.
What should people who think they have lupus know?…
Managing Lupus is Possible
How is lupus diagnosed?
Lupus is most often diagnosed by blood work and other clinical tests.
Talking with the doctor is important.
Those diagnosed with lupus should follow their physician’s instructions. Additionally, patients should report any flare-ups or changes in symptoms to their doctor.
Those who experience extreme symptoms, have difficulty breathing, or an ongoing fever should seek immediate medical attention. Seizures, confusion, and extreme pains in the stomach are also symptoms where calling for an ambulance is necessary.
How are flare-ups managed?
Lupus is a disease that has periods of flare-ups followed by remissions. During a flare-up, symptoms will range from mild to severe. Most lupus patients will notice a rash and arthritis symptoms during this time. Additionally, about half of all lupus patients will have kidney trouble. Furthermore, because lupus damages the patient’s immune system, they are more susceptible to infections than others.
How long do flare-ups last?
One characteristic of lupus is that it can flare up unexpectedly. Flare-ups typically last several days, but some patients report that their flare-ups last for two weeks or more.
What’s most important to remember?
It’s important to remember, though, that symptoms will subside eventually. With drug treatments, patients can learn to manage flare-ups better. With other lifestyle changes, it’s also possible to reduce the impact of other lupus symptoms, too.