Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling (inflammation) and a wide variety of symptoms. Lupus affects everyone differently. Some people have only a few mild symptoms and others have many; more severe symptoms.
Symptoms usually start in early adulthood, anywhere from the teen years into the 30s. People generally experience flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of remission. That’s why early symptoms are easy to dismiss.
Because early symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, having them doesn’t necessarily mean you have lupus. Early symptoms can include:
About 90 per cent of people with lupus experience some level of fatigue. An afternoon nap does the trick for some people; but sleeping too much during the day can lead to insomnia at night.
It may be difficult, but if you can remain active and stick to a daily routine, you may be able to keep your energy levels up.
One of the early symptoms of lupus is a low-grade fever for no apparent reason. Because it may hover somewhere between 98.5˚F (36.9˚C) and 101˚F (38.3˚C); you might not think to see a doctor. People with lupus may experience this type of fever off and on.
Thinning hair is often one of the first symptoms. Hair loss is the result of inflammation of the skin and scalp. Some people lose hair by the clump. More often, hair thins out slowly.
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Some people also have thinning of the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair. Lupus can cause hair to feel brittle, break easily, and look a bit ragged, earning it the name “lupus hair.”
Skin rash or lesions
One of the most visible symptoms of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash that appears over the bridge of the nose and on both cheeks. About 50 per cent of people with it have this rash.
It can occur suddenly or appear after exposure to sunlight. Sometimes the rash appears just before a flare-up.
Lupus can also cause non-itchy lesions in other areas of the body. Rarely, lupus can cause hives. Many people with it are sensitive to the sun; or even to artificial lighting. Some experience discoloration in the fingers and toes.
Inflammation of the pulmonary system is another possible symptom of lupus. The lungs become inflamed, and the swelling can extend to lung blood vessels. Even the diaphragm may be affected.
These conditions can all lead to chest pain when you try to breathe in. This condition is often referred to as pleuritic chest pain.
People with it can develop a kidney inflammation called nephritis. Inflammation makes it harder for the kidneys to filter toxins and waste from the blood.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, nephritis usually begins within five years of the start of lupus.
Dry mouth, dry eyes
If you have lupus, you may experience dry mouth. Your eyes may feel gritty and dry, too. That’s because some people with lupus develop Sjogren’s disease, another autoimmune disorder.
Sjogren’s causes the glands responsible for tears and saliva to malfunction, and lymphocytes can accumulate in the glands.
In some cases, women with lupus and Sjogren’s may also experience dryness of the vagina and skin.
The list of potential symptoms is lengthy. Other symptoms include oral ulcers, enlarged lymph nodes, muscle pain, chest pain, osteoporosis, and depression. Rare symptoms include anemia, dizziness, and seizures.
Fortunately, not everyone gets every symptom. While new symptoms can appear, others often disappear.