Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in different parts of the body. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, lupus symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening, so early diagnosis and treatment by a rheumatologist are essential. The symptoms of lupus can show up in many different ways, which sometimes makes it hard to diagnose.
Lupus appears when your immune system attacks the healthy tissues in your body and is believed to result from a combination of environmental factors and genetics. People with a genetic predisposition to lupus may see it develop when they are exposed to a trigger in the environment, including sunlight, infections, or medications.
Systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, is a type of lupus that can affect multiple organs. This type of lupus is said by the CDC to occur more in women and minorities, especially African Americans. The symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening. Early diagnosis of SLE and ensuring you get proper treatment are critical to preventing long-term consequences of the disease.
If you’re not sure whether you have lupus, consider some of these signs and symptoms:
- Fatigue or extreme exhaustion
- Joint pain or swelling
- Skin rashes (in particular a butterfly-shaped face rash across the cheeks and nose)
- Hair loss
- Recurring mouth sores
There are many symptoms or conditions associated with the forms of lupus. In addition to those above, others can include:
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Lung problems
- Chest pain when deep breathing
- Fingers or toes turning blue or white or feeling numb
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems
- Psychosis (disruptive thoughts and perceptions about what is or is not real)
- Blood cell and immunological abnormalities
According to the CDC, people with SLE can have periods of lupus symptoms called flares, followed by symptom-free periods called remissions. They may have flares often, or years apart, throughout their lives and with varying severity. There is no cure for SLE, but getting an early diagnosis and getting treatment is critical to preventing long-term consequences and managing symptoms.
To determine whether you have lupus, a physician will consider your symptoms, signs seen during physical exams, and data from lab tests and x-rays. There is no simple test to diagnose SLE. There are also different types of lupus, including something called skin lupus, which affects the skin in the form of rash or lesions. Drug-induced lupus is caused by some medicines and can disappear once the medication is stopped.
The best way to keep your lupus under control is by following the treatment plan suggested by your physician and taking care of yourself. You must learn how to tell when a flare is erupting. Make sure to see your physician and specialist regularly, and reduce stress. Those with lupus should limit their time in the sun and try to get enough sleep and rest.
For more information, check out www.cdc.gov/lupus