9 Early Signs of Lupus

Early Signs of Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease (meaning the body’s immune system is attacking itself) that can affect various parts of the body.

For instance, lupus can cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue in the joints, skin, brain, lungs, and kidneys. (1)

The symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose early on because its symptoms are often similar to other conditions, making it hard to know if you should seek medical attention.

In fact, according to the Lupus Foundation of America, an estimated 54 percent of people with lupus are initially misdiagnosed with other conditions. (2)

As pointed out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no single test can diagnose lupus.

Instead, doctors look at the individual’s symptoms and medical history to make a diagnosis. (3)

With that in mind, if you experience any of the following nine symptoms, it’s important to consult with a doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.

Here are nine early signs of lupus:

1. Extreme fatigue

Lupus can result in feeling tired all the time.

This fatigue is different from the kind you might feel after a long week at work or not getting enough sleep.

With lupus, the fatigue does not improve with rest and can even get worse with physical activity.

2. Fever

A low-grade fever is often one of the first signs of lupus.

The fever is between 98.5 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

It may persist for weeks or even months and can come and go.

3. Butterfly rash

This distinctive rash, which resembles a butterfly spreading its wings across the cheeks and nose, is often one of the first signs that lupus is present.

The rash may be triggered by exposure to sunlight.

About 50 percent of people with lupus will experience this symptom. (4)

4. Skin sensitivity to the sun

People with lupus are more likely to experience skin sensitivity or photosensitivity.

This means that their skin will become red, blotchy, and irritated when exposed to sunlight.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about two-thirds of individuals with lupus experience photosensitivity or sensitivity to sunlight. (5)

5. Dry mouth, dry eyes

Lupus can cause the mouth and eyes to become dry due to a decrease in saliva and tears, respectively.

This is known as Sjogren’s syndrome.

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that often occurs in conjunction with lupus. (6)

In some cases, women with lupus may only experience dryness in their mouth, while others may only experience it in their eyes.

About 18 percent of patients with lupus have Sjogren’s syndrome. (7)

6. Joint pain and swelling

Lupus can cause the joints to swell and become painful, especially in the hands, wrists, and knees.

The pain is often worse in the morning.

If you experience joint pain and swelling that doesn’t go after taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication, it’s important to consult with a doctor.

7. Muscle pain

Lupus can also cause muscle pain, which is often described as achy and sore.

The pain can be mild or severe and is often worse in the morning.

Most of the time, the pain is in the upper arms, the neck, thighs, and shoulders. (8)

8. Hair loss

Another early symptom of lupus is hair loss, which can occur on the scalp, face, or elsewhere on the body.

The hair may come out in patches or all at once.

Some people with lupus also experience thinning of the eyebrows, beard, and eyelashes.

9. Chest pain

Lupus can cause inflammation of the lining around the heart (known as pericarditis), which can lead to chest pain.

This pain is often worse when lying down.

And it usually occurs when you take a deep breath.

About 25 percent of people with lupus experience pericarditis. (9)

Other symptoms of lupus include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swelling of feet and hands
  • Depression
  • Oral ulcers
  • Raynaud’s disease (a condition that causes the fingers and toes to turn white or blue when exposed to cold)
  • Abnormalities in kidney function
  • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Sores on your scalp, nose, or the mouth

The takeaway

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s important to consult with a doctor.

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can cause significant damage to the body if left untreated.

While there is no cure for lupus, early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent or minimize some of the damage caused by the disease.

Early Signs of Lupus