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Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) - Symptoms

Lupus symptoms depend on what body organs are affected and how seriously they are affected.

Common symptoms

Many people have these symptoms:

  • Fatigue:Lupus causes mild to extreme fatigue. Even mild cases of lupus make it hard to do daily activities and exercise. Increased fatigue is a classic sign that a symptom flare is about to occur.
  • Joint and muscle pain: Joints may be painful, red, and warm. They may swell. Morning stiffness may also be felt. Lupus arthritis often occurs on both sides of the body at the same time. It's most often felt in the wrists, the small joints of the hands, and the elbows, knees, and ankles.
  • Skin problems:Skin rashes are often an important clue to the diagnosis. Many people have a butterfly rash camera.gif over the cheeks and bridge of the nose. Other common skin symptoms include skin sores or flaky red spots on the arms, hands, face, neck, or back; mouth or lip sores; and a scaly, red or purple raised rash on the face, neck, scalp, ears, arms, and chest.
  • Sensitivity to light: Exposure to ultraviolet light (such as sunlight or tanning parlors) typically makes the skin rash worse and can trigger lupus flares. Many people with lupus are sensitive to light, with fair-skinned people tending to be more sensitive.
  • Fever: People with lupus will sometimes have a low-grade fever related to the disease. Fever is sometimes a first sign of the disease.
  • Changes in weight: People with lupus may lose weight when their disease is active (flaring).
  • Swollen glands: Over time, people with lupus may get swollen lymph glands during a flare.
  • Headaches: These are usually related to stress and tension but can be related to a lupus flare. Many people who have lupus get migraine headaches.

Other symptoms

  • Raynaud's phenomenon: Some people with lupus have Raynaud's phenomenon. It affects the small vessels that supply blood to the skin and the soft tissues under the skin of the fingers and toes. It causes them to turn white and/or blue or red. The skin affected will feel numb, tingly, and cold to the touch.
  • Hair loss: People with lupus may have periods of hair loss, either in patches or spread evenly over the head. This hair loss usually isn't permanent.
  • Inflammation of blood vessels in the skin (cutaneous vasculitis): Inflammation or bleeding from the blood vessels can lead to small or large blue spots or small reddish spots on the skin or nail beds.
  • Symptoms from complicationsSymptoms from complications. Complications include nervous system, heart, and lung problems.

Other conditions with symptoms similar to lupus include fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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