Early symptoms of lupus


Is it lupus? This question can be answered by knowing the early symptoms of lupus. At the same time, no two cases of lupus are identical, and the symptoms may vary depending on the systems of the body that the condition affects. This disease can damage the skin, joints, inner organs, and any part of the body. More often than not, however, lupus only affects a few body parts. For instance, someone with lupus may experience knee swelling and fever while another may be always tired or have kidney problems.

The most common early signs of lupus include:

·         Tiredness.

·         Weakness.

·         Unexplained fever over 100 F.

·         Pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.

·         A butterfly-shaped rash covering the cheeks and bridge of the nose.

·         Anemia.

·         Skin lesions that appear or become worse when exposed to the sun.

·         Fingers and toes turning white, blue, or purple due to cold or stress.

·         Shortness of breath.

·         Chest pain when drawing a deep breath.

·         Dry eyes.

·         Headaches.

·         Confusion.

·         Memory loss.

·         Hair loss.

·         Abnormal weight loss or gain.

·         Sores in the mouth or nose which last more than five days.

·         Swelling in ankles and legs on both sides at the same time.

·         Blood clots.

These symptoms come and go. The period during which the patient is symptom-free is known as remission, and the times when the symptoms are at their worst are called flares. Flares are triggered by several factors such as:

·         Working too much without enough rest.

·         Stress.

·         Exposure to sunlight, fluorescent, or halogen light.

·         Infection.

·         Injury.

·         Some medications for chronic conditions (procainamide, hydralazine, phenytoin, etanercept, adalimumab).

It is possible to experience flares without any clear early symptoms of lupus. Tests may be required to confirm a diagnosis in such a case.

Testing for lupus

Complete blood count

The number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets may indicate anemia, a common lupus symptom.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate

Measures the speed at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of a tube in an hour. An abnormally faster rate is a sign of a systemic condition like lupus.

Kidney and liver assessment

Determines how well these organs are working to see if they have been affected by lupus.


May show an increased level of protein or red blood cells in the urine, meaning that lupus has affected the kidneys.

Antinuclear antibody test

Lupus is an autoimmune disease and this test may indicate a stimulated immune system.

Chest x-ray

May show anomalous shadows indicative of fluid or inflammation in the lungs.


Can look for problems with the valves and other parts of the heart.


To examine a small sample of kidney tissue.


In addition to these tests a doctor can diagnose lupus based on a patient’s medical and family history. Risk factors for lupus include gender, age, and ethnicity. African-American, Latina, Asian, and Native American women between the ages 15-45 are more likely to develop lupus, while men are at a greater risk before puberty and after turning 50 years old. African-Americans and Latinos have a tendency to get lupus at an earlier age and suffer more serious complications. For instance, African-Americans who have lupus encounter more issues with seizures, strokes, and swelling of the heart muscle. Other complications include:

·         Kidney failure.

·         Dizziness.

·         Changes in behavior.

·         Hallucinations.

·         Strokes.

·         Seizures.

·         Vasculitis.

·         Pericarditis.

·         Pleurisy.

·         Urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, yeast infections, salmonella, herpes and shingles.

·         Avascular necrosis.

·         Preeclampsia.

·         Pre-term birth.

·         Cancer.

Though there is no cure for lupus, certain medications can help patients live longer than in the past. Some of those drugs are:



Side effects


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Relieve fever and swelling and pain in joints and muscles.

Stomach upset, heartburn, drowsiness, headache, fluid retention.





Decrease swelling, tenderness, and pain.

Weight gain, easy bruising, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and increased risk of infection.


Antimalarial drugs

Manage joint pain, skin rashes, fatigue, and inflammation of the lungs.

Stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, trouble sleeping, and itching.

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate.

Chloroquine phosphate.

Immune suppressants

Suppress the immune system to limit the damage to the organ.

Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bladder problems, decreased fertility, and a risk of cancer and infection.



Mycophenolate mofetil.


BLyS-specific inhibitors

Limit the amount of autoantibodies in people with lupus.

Nausea, diarrhea, and fever.



Along with taking medication, lupus patients may need to see a number of different specialists:

·         Rheumatologist (immune system disorders).

·         Nephrologist (kidney diseases).

·         Hematologist (blood disorders).

·         Dermatologist (skin conditions).

·         Neurologist (problems with the nervous systems).

·         Cardiologist (heart and blood vessels).

·         Endocrinologist (glands and hormones).

·         Psychologist (anxiety and depression).

·         Occupational therapist.

·         Social worker.

The negative impact of lupus goes beyond the physical and can lead to emotional and mental problems. Fortunately, the early symptoms of lupus can be managed and flares prevented by doing the following:

·         Learning to recognize when a flare is coming up.

·         Keeping doctor’s appointments.

·         Establishing realistic goals and priorities.

·         Limiting exposure to sunlight, and fluorescent and halogen light.

·         Eating a healthy diet.

·         Learning to cope with stress.

·         Getting enough sleep and rest.

·         Exercising moderately if a doctor approves it.

·         Developing a support network consisting of family and friends.

Some people have found relief supplements containing flaxseed and fish oil. Just keep in mind that patients with lupus should ask their doctors about these supplements and how they might interact with the medicines they take.