Your immune system’s job is to protect you — to fight infections and keep you safe from invasion by pathogens, much like a well-trained army. When this elite team of germ-fighting machines revolts and starts to attack your own tissues and organs, it’s known as autoimmune disease.
This malfunction of the immune system is what causes the symptoms associated with the disease lupus. Lupus is a challenging disease to diagnose and treat because of its vast range of symptoms and associated conditions. Here we explore the most common lupus symptoms and what causes them.
At first, lupus may appear to be any number of other conditions before doctors start to make a connection. At Valerius Medical Group & Research Center, our board-certified rheumatologists are very aware that lupus can be challenging to diagnose because it presents differently in each person. Patients in the Los Alamitos, California, area benefit from their expert knowledge and care in diagnosing and treating lupus.
We’ve put together a list of the major symptoms of lupus to help you understand this painful and sometimes crippling disease.
Lupus commonly targets the synovial membranes. These membranes are responsible for producing a fluid that lubricates joints and are found surrounding certain joints, around tendons, and within the fluid sacs between joints called bursae. When lupus attacks these tissues, it causes inflammation that can be extremely painful and cause swelling.
Lupus can cause fluid to accumulate in your extremities, particularly in your legs, ankles, and feet. This can be due to a problem with your kidneys, called lupus nephritis, which can also causes blood in your urine and elevated blood pressure.
A condition called lupus myositis causes inflammation in your muscles. The muscles most likely to be affected are those in your neck, pelvis, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms. This can make daily activities like brushing your teeth or climbing stairs very difficult.
Lupus can lead to anemia or blood clotting disorders. It leaves sufferers at higher risk of deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism.
When your immune system gets the message to fight an infection, it causes your body temperature to rise. With lupus, the immune system is confused and your body temperature often rises above 100 degrees when there is no infection.
Two-thirds of people with lupus develop cutaneous lupus — a rash of sores usually found in exposed areas of skin and made worse by UV (sun) exposure. Lupus can also cause a distinctive butterfly-shaped rash across your cheeks and nose.
Lupus can affect all of your internal organs, and when it affects your lungs, it can cause many problems. The first is pleurisy, inflammation of the outside of the lungs, resulting in pain when breathing deeply or coughing.
Lupus also causes pneumonitis, which is inflammation inside your lung tissue. This condition resembles pneumonia with coughing, a fever, and shortness of breath. Chronic inflammation in the lungs can lead to a condition called chronic diffuse interstitial lung disease.
Hair loss is a common symptom for many and can be the result of skin diseases of the scalp. Whether it grows back or not depends on how much scarring forms on the skin.
Frequent and unexplained sores that appear in the nose or mouth can be due to Sjogren’s syndrome, where the mucous membranes do not produce enough moisture and become dried out.
The brain and nervous system can also be affected by lupus. Issues like psychosis, seizures, stroke, headaches, confusion, behavioral and personality changes, mood swings, and brain fog can all be symptoms. The most common neurological symptoms are depression and fatigue. Studies show that 80% of lupus sufferers describe extreme fatigue during a lupus flare-up.
If your fingers and toes sometimes go white or purple in response to cold or stress, this could be Raynaud's phenomenon, another symptom of lupus. The condition can often be painful.
If you are concerned that some of your symptoms point toward lupus, contact us at Valerius Medical Group & Research Center. You need to begin the process of diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Request an appointment online through this website or call our Orange County office today to start fighting back against lupus.