Lupus is a rare chronic disease that can have life-altering consequences for those affected by it.
It is an autoimmune disease, meaning it manifests as a result of the immune system attacking the body’s own healthy tissues and organs.
In a healthy immune system, the body is able to differentiate between foreign invaders (like bacteria and viruses) and its own cells. However, in people with lupus, the immune system mistakenly targets and damages healthy tissue, which can lead to inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.
Lupus is a complex and highly individualized disease, with symptoms and severity varying greatly from one person to another. And since it can potentially affect any tissue in the body, it can easily be mistaken for other conditions.
Here are 6 common signs that may indicate lupus.
One of the most common symptoms of lupus is a feeling of unrelenting fatigue. This exhaustion often extends beyond the typical tiredness experienced after a long day or strenuous activity.
Lupus-related fatigue can be debilitating, interfering with daily tasks and overall quality of life.
Fatigue can also be a symptom of many other different health conditions, so if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue, consult a healthcare professional to rule out other potential causes.
Joint Pain and Swelling
As lupus damages your tissues, this tends to cause inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling. This discomfort most often affects the hands, wrists, and knees, but can also involve other joints.
The pain tends to be symmetrical, meaning it affects both sides of the body. Joint pain associated with lupus is typically worse in the morning and can improve throughout the day.
While joint pain is also common in other conditions like arthritis, the symmetry and pattern of joint involvement in lupus can help differentiate it from other potential causes.
A telltale sign of lupus is the presence of skin rashes, particularly the “butterfly” rash. This rash appears across the cheeks and the bridge of the nose, resembling the wings of a butterfly. The rash is often red, raised, and sensitive to sunlight.
Another skin manifestation of lupus is Raynaud’s phenomenon. This occurs when blood vessels in the fingers and toes constrict in response to cold temperatures or stress, resulting in a sequence of color changes, numbness, and pain.
The affected areas may turn white, then blue or purple, and finally red as circulation returns. Although Raynaud’s phenomenon can be a standalone condition, its presence in lupus patients may indicate an overlap of autoimmune disorders.
Lupus nephritis, or inflammation of the kidneys, is a serious complication that can occur in people with lupus. This inflammation can impair the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and excess fluid from the blood, potentially leading to kidney damage or even kidney failure.
Symptoms of lupus nephritis may include swelling in the legs, ankles, or around the eyes, high blood pressure, and changes in urine color or frequency.
If you suspect you have lupus and are experiencing these symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately, as early treatment can prevent further damage to the kidneys.
Chest Pain and Shortness of Breath
Inflammation caused by lupus can affect the lungs, leading to pleurisy, a condition where the lining of the lungs becomes inflamed.
This can result in sharp chest pain, particularly when taking deep breaths, and shortness of breath.
Similarly, lupus can also inflame the lining of the heart, causing pericarditis, which is characterized by chest pain that worsens when lying down or inhaling deeply.
Chest pain and shortness of breath can also be due to various other medical conditions—many of which are serious and potentially life-threatening—so it is always best to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Lupus can also affect the tissues of the nervous system, leading to a range of neurological symptoms. These may include headaches, dizziness, memory problems, seizures, and even strokes.
In some cases, people with lupus may develop mood disorders like depression or anxiety as a result of the disease or the emotional stress of living with a chronic condition.
As with other symptoms, neurological issues can have multiple causes, so it’s important to discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional if you experience these symptoms.