5 Symptoms of Lupus

Of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with lupus, more than 90% are women. Beyond these facts, it’s hard to narrow lupus down to a standard definition.

Each person with lupus has their own experience with the disease. Their symptoms can be mild, debilitating, or life-threatening.

Lupus symptoms are tremendously varied because the disease can affect one or several organs and systems anywhere in your body.

No matter how lupus affects you, Behnam Khaleghi, MD, here at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center offers compassionate care grounded in years of experience helping people with lupus live their best lives possible.

If you have any questions about your symptoms, don’t hesitate to call one of our offices in Orange or Laguna Hills, California, so we can help. Meanwhile, here’s a bit about lupus and a rundown of its symptoms.

Lupus explained

Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease. Your immune system normally attacks bacteria, viruses, and other harmful invaders that can make you sick. But when you have an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks your own healthy tissues.

In some types of autoimmune diseases, specific tissues are attacked. For example, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that affects your pancreas.

In patients with lupus, however, the immune system attacks many areas of the body, especially your skin, joints, and internal organs. The organs most frequently affected include your heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.

Inflammation develops in the area affected by the immune system, which in turn damages the tissues and leads to a range of potential symptoms and complications.

Five common lupus symptoms

Rather than listing five individual symptoms, you’ll get a better understanding about lupus if we tell you about five broad types of symptoms that affect nearly everyone with lupus:

1. Body-wide symptoms

More than 90% of patients with lupus suffer from symptoms such as:

Malaise refers to generally feeling ill without being able to pinpoint a specific problem.

2. Skin conditions

More than 80% of people with lupus develop a skin rash or recurrent ulcers in their nose and mouth. Some rashes are specific to lupus. For example, a butterfly rash across your face is one of the hallmark symptoms.

You may develop disc-shaped, raised lesions on your face or scalp, where they frequently cause hair loss. Many patients also have general rashes or Raynaud’s disease, which occurs when cold temperatures or stress make your fingers and toes turn white or blue.

3. Photosensitivity

Photosensitivity could be listed under skin conditions because it often causes a rash. But this symptom is worth noting separately because it’s quite common and exposure to sunlight frequently triggers a lupus flare.

It only takes a few minutes in the sunlight to trigger your lupus symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to always wear a sunblock with SPF 70 or higher and that blocks UVA and UVB rays.

4. Musculoskeletal symptoms

Painful and swollen joints develop in 80% of lupus patients. Your joint symptoms may range from mild pain and stiffness to full-blown arthritis. An inflammatory condition called lupus arthritis most often affects the small joints of your hands, wrists, and knees.

Lupus increases your risk of developing fibromyalgia, leading to widespread pain and tenderness in your muscles and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia also affects your memory and ability to concentrate.

5. Chest pain

Lupus affects the heart in about half of all patients, most often causing pericarditis, or inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart. Chest pain when taking a deep breath is the earliest symptom of heart involvement.

The symptoms of lupus are varied, complex, and could be caused by any number of underlying health conditions. It takes the expertise of a rheumatologist to evaluate your health and determine the source of your symptoms. 

To schedule an appointment with Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center, call one of our offices in Laguna Hills or Orange, California, or use the convenient online booking feature.

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