Lupus Symptoms: Signs You Need to Know

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A chronic disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, lupus symptoms is often a relentless and frustratingly painful illness. While the disease itself can be manageable, there are still unanswered questions surrounding lupus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lupus is an autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation and tissue damage. More specifically, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which is the most common type, affects different parts of the body, including internal organs.

Although the exact causes of SLE are unknown, medical professionals think the disease is linked to genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. The CDC also said it’s most common among women during childbearing years, affecting four to 12 females for every one male. Additionally, the Lupus Foundation of America said women of color are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians. Because the signs and symptoms of lupus are similar to those of many other diseases, it can be difficult to diagnose. For this reason, it’s worth taking a closer look.

Common Lupus Symptoms

Lupus Symptoms

Man with joint pain | Source: iStock

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, a wide array of symptoms may help with an appropriate diagnosis. The most common symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • Headaches
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • Fever Anemia (low numbers of blood cells or hemoglobin, or low total blood volume)
  • Swelling (edema) in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
  • Pain in chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)
  • Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
  • Sun- or light-sensitivity (photosensitivity)
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold (Raynaud’s syndrome)
  • Mouth or nose ulcers
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Again, these symptoms can help, but they don’t necessarily mean you have lupus. Consider them warning signs that you need to visit a doctor to see what’s going on.

Rare signs of lupus

Lupus Symptoms

Depression can be a sign of lupus | Source: iStock

According to the Office on Women’s Heath, lupus presents itself differently in every person. This means there are also some symptoms that are less common than others. Such rare signs of lupus include:

  • Seizures
  • Dizzy spells
  • “Seeing things,” not able to judge reality
  • Feeling sad
  • Strokes
  • Dry or irritated eyes

Because these signs are rarer, they may be most helpful if you’ve had ongoing health troubles that you can’t seem to pin down.

Diagnosing a difficult disease

Lupus Symptoms

Doctor evaluating possible lupus symptoms | Source: iStock

When searching for a diagnosis, a doctor will take into consideration a person’s current symptoms, test results, medical history, and family history. Although lab tests are needed, they alone cannot give a definitive diagnosis. Instead, they help to create a fuller picture. Furthermore, if symptoms develop over time, as is often the case with lupus, diagnosing can be even more of a challenge. Often, it’s helpful to consult with a rheumatologist.

While multiple symptoms can develop at once, resulting in a flare, the Lupus Research Institute recognizes the importance of understanding that no two cases are the same. And because the symptoms may present themselves in different ways and at various times, it’s imperative that someone experiencing any combination of these symptoms seek medical advice. A doctor will be able to tell if further testing is required.

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