Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus is characterized by variable symptoms -- in other words, it's not the same for everyone. Lupus symptoms can range from mild to severe and the symptoms can go away as well as recur. Painful or swollen joints (arthritis), unexplained fever, and fatigue are among the most common symptoms. A characteristic red skin rash, known as the butterfly or malar rash, may appear across the nose and cheeks. Rashes may also occur on the face and ears, upper arms, shoulders, chest, and hands. Many people with lupus are photosensitive (sensitive to sunlight) so rashes often appear on areas of the skin exposed to skin and worsen after exposure.
List of Common Symptoms of Lupus
- Painful or swollen joints and muscle pain
- Unexplained fever
- Red rashes, most commonly on the face
- Chest pain upon deep breathing
- Unusual loss of hair
- Pale or purple fingers or toes from cold or stress (Raynaud's phenomenon)
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Swelling (edema) in legs or around eyes
- Mouth ulcers
- Swollen glands
- Extreme fatigue
Other symptoms of lupus include chest pain, hair loss, anemia (a decrease in red blood cells), mouth ulcers, and pale or purple fingers and toes from cold and stress. Some people also experience headaches, dizziness, depression, confusion, or seizures.
The following systems in the body also can be affected by lupus.
Kidneys - Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) can impair their ability to get rid of waste products and toxins from the body effectively. There is usually no pain associated with kidney involvement.
Central nervous system - Lupus affects the brain or central nervous system in some patients. Headaches, dizziness, memory disturbances, vision problems, seizures, stroke, or changes in behavior can result.
Blood vessels - Blood vessels may become inflamed (vasculitis), affecting circulation. The inflammation may be mild or severe.
Blood - Lupus patients may develop anemia, leukopenia (a decreased number of white blood cells), or thrombocytopenia (a decrease in the number of platelets in the blood, which assist in clotting). Some people with lupus may have an increased risk for blood clots.
Heart - In some people with lupus, inflammation can affect the heart (myocarditis and endocarditis) or the membrane that surrounds it (pericarditis), causing chest pains or other symptoms. Lupus can also increase the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Pregnancy for Women With Lupus
Here's the bad news -- a lupus pregnancy is considered high risk. And the good news -- most women with lupus carry their babies safely to the end of their pregnancy. Women with lupus have a higher rate of miscarriage and premature births compared with the general population. In addition, women who have antiphospholipid antibodies are at a greater risk of miscarriage in the second trimester because of their increased risk of blood clotting in the placenta.
Lupus patients with a history of kidney disease have a higher risk of preeclampsia (hypertension with a buildup of excess watery fluid in cells or tissues of the body). Pregnancy counseling before pregnancy is recommended. Ideally, a woman should have no signs or symptoms of lupus and be taking no medications for at least 6 months before she becomes pregnant.
- Pregnancy and Arthritis: Overcoming the Difficulties
- Women With Lupus Have Greater Pregnancy Complications
Some women may experience a mild to moderate flare during or after their pregnancy; others do not. Pregnant women with lupus, especially those taking corticosteroids, also are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and kidney complications. Be prepared in case the newborn baby needs special care.