“Lupus is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself.” – Dr. Howard Smith
According to WebMD, “Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakes the body’s own tissues as foreign invaders and attacks them.”
Despite what Dr. House might think, sometimes all signs do, in fact, point to lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that often acts like other illnesses. This makes lupus particularly difficult to diagnose, and also makes it hard for people to see the signs.
Doctors have come forward with some pretty important signs that everyone should keep an eye out for. These are some of the main signs to never ignore when it comes to lupus.
Here Are 11 Warning Signs Of Lupus To Never Ignore
1. Weight loss
Weight loss when you’re not concentrating efforts on losing weight can be a big sign of many different illnesses. However, because lupus is an autoimmune disorder, that means that it causes the body to attack itself. You may find that you’re losing a lot of weight within a short amount of time without changing our eating or exercise habits.
Fatigue is a pretty common symptom of a fair number of illnesses, which is why lupus is so hard to diagnose. But this kind of fatigue is beyond just feeling ‘tired’. “This isn’t just your everyday tiredness; with lupus you feel like you literally can’t get out of bed,” says Dr. Delphine Lee.
Not even the mid-afternoon coffee is enough to perk you up. If you have unnatural fatigue, make sure to get in touch with your doctor.
3. Poor blood circulation
If your fingers and hands can never seem to get warm, you might be showing signs of poor blood circulation. You may notice that your fingernails are always blue and every time you touch someone, they feel scalding hot because the circulation in your hands is so poor. This happens regardless of the weather or how warm the room is. If you’re having trouble with your circulation in your extremities, contact your doctor.
This is one of the lesser known symptoms of lupus, and one that often goes unchecked. If your heartburn seems to be persistent, you might want to check in with your doctor, especially if you’re getting heartburn when you haven’t eaten anything that might cause it in the first place. This type of heartburn is going to be constant and doesn’t seem to go away with antacids. See your doctor if your heartburn isn’t going away to check for other signs of lupus.
5. Swelling in the joints
Are you in your mid-twenties or early thirties, but feel like you have the joints of a seventy-year-old? Do you have a lot of swelling in your knees, elbows, and other joints that make it feel like you’re suffering from arthritis? This is another early warning sign of lupus.
“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,” adds WebMD. Paired with the other signs on this list, it’s important to talk to a doctor when you feel like your joints just aren’t working like they used to.
Sunburn is pretty common when you hang out in the sun for too long, but a warning sign of lupus can be a rash that shows up almost instantly when you’re in the sun. Because lupus is an autoimmune disease, your body is going to be constantly fighting against itself.
“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,” states WebMD.
Sunburn after hanging out at the beach all day without sunblock probably doesn’t mean you have lupus. However, see your doctor if a walk down the street on a sunny afternoon gives you a painful rash.
7. Constant, flu-like symptoms
With how many illnesses are floating around, it’s pretty common to catch a cold or the flu. This is what makes lupus so hard to diagnose. However, if you have persistent, flu-like symptoms that don’t seem to be getting better, you’re going to want to book an appointment with your doctor right away.
“The difference between the flu and lupus is that the flu gets better in four to 10 days,” adds Dr. Lee. Therefore, if you feel like you have the flu but it just won’t go away, this could be a big red flag that you’re dealing with lupus and you should get help.
8. Hair loss
Everyone loses some hair every day, but when you start losing an unnatural amount of hair, you might want to go get checked out.
According to an article medically reviewed by rheumatologist and immunologist, Dr. Nancy Carteron, “Hair loss is the result of inflammation of the skin and scalp. Some people also have thinning of the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair. Lupus can cause hair to feel brittle, break easily, and look a bit ragged, earning it the name “lupus hair.””
Lupus can cause your hair to start thinning rapidly, resulting in your hair coming out of your head in large, unnatural clumps. Approximately 90% of all lupus cases diagnosed in women show some kind of hair loss in one way or the other.
9. Chest pain
Chest pain can be the precursor to all kinds of diseases and illnesses that have to do with your heart or lungs. However, if you’ve already been checked out for heart diseases and your chest pain persists, you might want to ask your doctor to run some tests for lupus. Lupus can cause swelling around the lungs, which results in chest pain that can trick most doctors into looking in the wrong place for the cause.
In women, lupus can cause miscarriages due to the fact that lupus causes a lot of problems with blood clotting.
“Although most pregnancies go well, there is an increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Women with lupus are at risk for renal [kidney] complications including renal failure if pregnancy occurs during a phase of active renal disease,” says rheumatologist Ignacio Sanz, MD.
Other than miscarriages, women might find that their periods are also extremely heavy. They may also have trouble tracking their period because of irregularity. Keep an eye out, but there are also many other illnesses specifically in women that can cause irregularities, heavy bleeding, and trouble carrying to term. It’s best to get checked by both an OBGYN and an autoimmune specialist.
11. Pain using the bathroom
Lupus often affects one’s kidneys, and anyone who has ever had kidney problems can tell you that urinating becomes painful, and fast, once your kidneys start acting up. If you have trouble using the bathroom regularly, along with other signs of lupus, get a hold of your doctor for testing.
Lupus is a tricky disease because it often hides as other illnesses, which leads doctors down the wrong path. However, you can easily rule out other issues with some pretty simple tests, so make sure you keep track of all of your symptoms so you can go to your doctor informed about what you may or may not have.