Early Signs and Symptoms of Lupus

Early Signs and Symptoms of Lupus

Lupus is considered an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body, even if its tissues are healthy. It is chronic, which means it lasts for a long time, and the most common type of lupus is systemic, which means that it affects many systems in the body—including the skin, the joints, blood circulation, oxygen intake and more. Here are the most common symptoms of systemic lupus:

1. Low fever and fatigue

Lupus patients may notice that they are constantly running a low-grade fever even if they don’t have another low-grade fever-producing illness such as a cold. Again, this is the body’s response to the overall inflammation caused by lupus. The chronic inflammation often causes chronic fatigue, which may impede overall quality of life.

2. Headache

Headache is another sign of lupus and can be a consequence of how the disease affects the nervous system. Though headache is one symptom of the involvement of the nervous system, others are more serious—including confusion, seizures, ringing in the ears, drooping eyelids, dizziness, vision issues, unstable blood pressure, or carpal tunnel syndrome.

3. Painful and swollen joints

Joint pain and swelling are common symptoms of lupus. A patient might see the swelling in their hands or feet, or even around their eyes. Lupus worsens conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and tendonitis, but the good news is that the joints aren’t permanently damaged. Lupus can also lead to something called tendon laxity. This is when the tendons that connect the bones to the muscles become loose, sometimes to the point where the bones are unstable and can move out of place.

4. Butterfly-shaped rash

A butterfly-shaped rash on the face is one of the more common signs of lupus. The rash covers the cheeks and the nose. The rash is especially noticeable after the person has been out in the sun. According to rheumatologists at NYU Langone’s Lupus Center, this common lupus face rash most often occurs when immune-related cells in a lupus patient’s skin react to damage from UV light exposure, and triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals, which cause the development of this rash.

5. Discolored fingers and toes

Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when lupus sufferers are exposed to cold environments or under stress is another symptom of lupus. The fingers and toes can also turn numb, which is also a symptom of Raynaud’s Disease. Lupus-related Raynaud’s typically occurs due to inflammation of nerves or blood vessels. This discoloration may be accompanied by pain, numbness, or tingling, and may also affect the lips, nose and chin in lupus patients.

6. Chest pain

Chest pain, especially when a patient breathes deeply, coughs, sneezes or even laughs is another symptom of lupus. The patient can also suffer from shortness of breath. This happens because lupus sets up inflammation in the lungs. This often leads to a condition called pleurisy, when the lining over the lungs called the pleura is inflamed. Other problems lupus can cause for the lungs are pneumonitis, chronic inflammation that leads to scar tissue and even blood clots in the lungs called pulmonary emboli.

7. Hair loss

Patients with lupus may also notice hair thinning and hair loss as one of the symptoms of their disease. Hair loss is made worse when lupus causes sores or rashes on the scalp. Patients can also lose hair due to the drugs they’re given to treat or manage their lupus symptoms.

8. Sensitivity to light

Lupus patients may also develop light sensitivity, especially if they have the type of lupus that mostly affects their skin. They can break out into rashes and suffer from joint pain, fatigue and fever when they go out into the sun. Using a strong sunblock when they go outside during the day, as well as protective clothing—such as a wide brimmed hat, long sleeves, and sunglasses—can help mitigate this sensitivity to light.