Top 13 Signs of Lupus You Should Not Ignore

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling, inflammation, and other symptoms. The problem with lupus is that the disorder can affect every person differently.

Some people have mild signs of lupus, while others experience severe symptoms of lupus [1]https://www.cdc.gov/lupus/facts/detailed.html.

Signs and symptoms of the disease usually start in early adulthood, and that applies from anywhere in your teen years, up until your 30s.

The condition does not manifest in constant symptoms. Instead, you experience flare-ups, followed by periods of remission. And that is why early symptoms are crucial for treatment of the condition.

Lupus happens when your body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs [2]https://resources.lupus.org/entry/facts-and-statistics. The inflammation can affect different body systems, including your kidneys, brain, heart, blood cells, joints, skin, and lungs.

Because the signs of lupus can mimic other ailments, the condition is hard to diagnose. The most distinctive symptom is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks.

Common symptoms

1. You feel like you have the flu, and you are not getting better

Fever, chills, muscle aches, and sleepiness are the most well-known symptoms and signs of the common flu [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4902520/. They are also the first symptoms of lupus.

The difference between one and the other is that you are not getting better if you have lupus. Flu symptoms get better in four to 10 days, even if you do not take any medications.

2. You are losing weight, despite not being on a diet

Many women, and men, would love to lose weight overnight [4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22311939. But while sudden overnight weight loss sounds like a dream, it is not.

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, which means the condition causes the body’s immune system to attack itself. In some cases, lupus can throw the thyroid and other hormones in chaos, and that will affect your weight. Weight loss is one of the most common signs of lupus.

3. Tender bumps on your neck

Lymph nodes are small and bean-shaped structures throughout your body. These are designed to help fight infection and filter out harmful substances.

In normal cases, you cannot see them or feel them. However, when they work overtime, as is the case when you have lupus, they become visibly swollen and painful to touch.

The most common place to feel them is along the neck, down the jaw, and behind the ears.

4. You feel very tired

Exhausted cannot even describe the level of your tiredness. The word exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how tired you feel [5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3380630/. This is not your everyday tiredness.

When you have lupus, you will feel like you literally cannot get out of bed. The problem is, exhaustion can be caused by a number of things, ranging from depression to cancer. However, when accompanied by other symptoms, you can be sure it is lupus.

5. Blisters appear in weird places

Blisters usually appear in common places. For example, your face, and other skin areas. However, a blister on your skin? Blisters inside your nose or mouth?

Now that is something that we can conclude is not a common place. In this case, you should call a doctor. While there are other illnesses that cause painful bumps on your body, lesions on your mucous membranes are a common sign of lupus.

6. Hair coming out in clumps

Lupus can affect any gender, but it is much more common in women than men. In fact, 90% of all cases diagnosed are in women between the ages of 15 and 44.

One of the most devastating symptoms is a loss of hair [6]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22176340. You will notice your hair thinning and you are losing significant volume over a short period of time.

7. Your hands are freezing in the summer

Women usually have cold hands and feet. But when that happens in the summer, when the weather is hot, you have to wonder what is the problem.

When your fingers or toes often get extremely cold, they turn blue, or they feel numb, it might be the Raynaud’s syndrome [7]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raynaud_syndrome. The syndrome is an illness that affects circulation, and is a common symptom of lupus.

8. Problems on the potty

Kidneys are one of the most important organs in the body, and also one of the most commonly affected by lupus.

In addition to the side and back pain, you will have problems urinating and retain water. A blood test can also show high levels of protein in your urine.

9. Heartburn doesn’t go away

Stomach cramps, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal problems are common symptoms of lupus. And while they go away in some time in normal conditions, they do not go away when the problem is lupus.

Over the counter medication provides little to no relief for heartburn, and that is a sign lupus is progressing.

10. Skin rash and lesions

As mentioned previously, the most distinctive and visible symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash that appears over both of your cheeks [8]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180724174324.htm.

Half of the people affected by lupus experience this symptom. The rash can appear suddenly or appear after exposure to sunlight. In some cases, the rash appears just before a flare-up.

11. You feel like you have arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that affects mostly the elderly. It is normal, as we age, our bones lose their bone density and strength. But you feel like you have arthritis, meaning your bones hurt from the inside in your 30s, the cause is something else.

The pain happens in your joints, legs, and it is worst in the morning and gets better as the day goes on.

12. Chest pain

Chest pain is not always a symptom of a heart attack. Not that lupus is something good. At least you should not panic as much as you would do for a heart attack.

The autoimmune disease causes swelling throughout the body, which includes the sacs surrounding the heart and lungs. Because of that, you might experience dull chest pain, as well as shortness of breath.

13. Dry mouth and eyes

Dry mouth and dry eyes are another common symptoms of the autoimmune disorder. The reason is some people with lupus also develop Sjogren’s disease, which is also an autoimmune disorder that causes the glands for saliva and tears to malfunction.

Causes of lupus

As mentioned previously, lupus happens when your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your body. People with an inherited predisposition with lupus develop the disorder when they come into contact with some triggers in the environment.

The cause of lupus is unknown, but there are some triggers.

  • Exposure to sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger internal response
  • Infections can irritate lupus or cause relapse in some people
  • Lupus can also be triggered by medications include blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, and antibiotics

In addition to possible triggers, there are also risk factors you need to understand:

  • Lupus is more common in women, as 9 out of 10 patients are women
  • Lupus can affect people of all ages, but it is most common among patients between 15 and 45 years old
  • In terms of race, lupus is more common in Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanics

Diagnosis of lupus

The disorder can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms usually mimic those of common problems. The signs of lupus are vague, and unlike another disease, lupus cannot be diagnosed by a simple lab test.

The most common way to diagnose lupus is with a blood test called antinuclear antibody. This is a type of antibody directed against the cells nuclei.

ANA is present in nearly every person with active lupus, and doctors often use the ANA test as a screening tool. Bear in mind, a positive test doesn’t mean you have lupus, as people with other autoimmune disorders might get a positive test.

Doctors examine the results of the ANA test in correlation with other criteria, signs, and symptoms.

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