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Symptoms of Lupus

What are some of the symptoms of lupus?

It is important to note that the initial symptoms of lupus are very general, and could be early warning signs for many other conditions. These symptoms include:

  • Joint pain. Joint pains are more common than arthritis in people with lupus. The arthritis of lupus is usually found on both sides of the body and does not cause damage to the joints. The most frequently involved joints are those of the hand, knees, and wrists.
  • Muscle pain. Myositis is an inflammation of the muscles. You may experience muscle pain without or with joint swelling. This is very common with the new onset of lupus and with subsequent flares.
  • Mild to extreme fatigue. Persistent fatigue that's different from normal tiredness and that isn't necessarily relieved by rest.
  • Fever. Your fever may be slight to high (you can check your temperature yourself).
  • Swollen glands. Up to 50% of people with lupus eventually develop swollen lymph glands during a flare.
  • Weight loss. Unusual and unintentional weight loss may indicate lupus.
  • Loss of appetite. You may experience a sudden and unexplained loss of appetite.
  • Nausea. The flu-like symptoms associated with lupus mean you may experience nausea too.
  • Dryness of eyes and mouth. The eyes become gritty and scratchy, and are sometimes very sensitive to light. A dry mouth can make swallowing dry foods difficult, cause tooth decay, and dental hygiene problems. Lupus is an autoimmune, systemic disease, so it can cause you to experience dry eyes and mouth.
  • Malar rash (also called butterfly rash). This is a reddish rash which appears across the face and the bridge of the nose.
  • Alopecia. The loss of body hair.
  • Mucosal ulcers. Painless ulcers may develop on mucous membranes (for example, the mouth, nose, or vagina).
  • Anemia. When a fever persists for several weeks you may become pale from anemia (a fall in the level of hemoglobin in the blood).

Are there any complications?

Some more advanced symptoms and complications that can develop as a result of lupus include:

  • Inflammation of the heart. Inflammation of the sac holding the heart (pericarditis) is the most common form of heart problem in people with lupus. This causes chest pain and can mimic a heart attack.
  • Kidney problems. The kidney is generally involved with lupus. Severe kidney disease often requires immunosuppressive therapy. All patients with newly diagnosed SLE should have the urine checked for blood and protein because kidney inflammation can be silent in the early stages.
  • Lung conditions. More than 50% of people with lupus have some sort of lung disease. Inflammation of the lining of the lung (pleurisy) is the most common problem.
  • Photosensitivity. A sensitivity to light, especially sunlight. In the case of lupus, a sufferer might get a skin rash after being exposed to sunlight.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon The fingers and toes become discolored (blue or white), due to various reasons, including emotional stress or coldness.

Some more rarely occurring symptoms include:

  • Nervous system dysfunction. Serious brain and nerve problems and acute psychiatric syndromes occur in about 15% of patients with lupus. Potential disorders include nerve paralysis, seizures, severe depression, psychosis, and strokes.
  • Vasculitis Inflammation of blood vessels (veins, arteries, and capillaries).
  • Serositis. An inflammation of the delicate tissues covering internal organs and abdominal pain. Including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, the pancreas, bladder, and the inner ear.

What causes lupus to flare up?

Lupus flare-ups can be caused by a variety of things, such as:

  • An improper diet (See the section, What about diet?)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (in sunlight)
  • Smoking
  • Overexertion (physically or emotionally)


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