Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Symptoms of Lupus continued...
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. New symptoms may continue to appear years after the
initial diagnosis, and different symptoms can occur at different times. In some
people with lupus, only one system of the body, such as the skin or joints, is
affected. Other people experience symptoms in many parts of their body. Just
how seriously a body system is affected varies from person to person. 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 other toxins from the body effectively. There
is usually no pain associated with kidney involvement, although some patients
may notice swelling in their ankles. Most often, the only indication of kidney
disease is an abnormal urine or blood test. Because the kidneys are so
important to overall health, lupus affecting the kidneys generally requires
intensive drug treatment to prevent permanent damage.
- Lungs: Some people with lupus develop pleuritis, an inflammation of the
lining of the chest cavity that causes chest pain, particularly with breathing.
Patients with lupus also may get pneumonia.
- Central nervous system: In some patients, lupus affects the brain or
central nervous system. This can cause headaches, dizziness, memory
disturbances, vision problems, seizures, stroke, or changes in behavior.
- Blood vessels: Blood vessels may become inflamed (vasculitis), affecting
the way blood circulates through the body. The inflammation may be mild and may
not require treatment or may be severe and require immediate attention.
- Blood: People with lupus 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 occur in the heart
itself (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).
Diagnosing lupus can be difficult. It may take months or even years for
doctors to piece together the symptoms to diagnose this complex disease
accurately. Making a correct diagnosis of lupus requires knowledge and
awareness on the part of the doctor and good communication on the part of the
patient. Giving the doctor a complete, accurate medical history (for example,
what health problems you have had and for how long) is critical to the process
of diagnosis. This information, along with a physical examination and the
results of laboratory tests, helps the doctor consider other diseases that may
mimic lupus, or determine if the patient truly has the disease. Reaching a
diagnosis may take time as new symptoms appear.