Could Your Symptoms Be an Early Sign of Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body. Around 1.5 million Americans are estimated to have lupus. It's essential to be aware of the early signs of lupus, so it can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Keep reading to learn more about the early symptoms of lupus.

Key takeaways:

What is lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in different body parts. In an autoimmune disorder, your body's immune response attacks healthy body parts by mistake. The condition affects people differently, with some experiencing mild illness, while for others, it can be life-threatening. Lupus typically flares up and then subsides with rest and treatment, although the symptoms usually come back occasionally.

Different types of lupus

There are four different kinds of lupus:

  1. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This is the most common type of lupus, and it causes inflammation that affects multiple organs, joints, and skin.
  2. Cutaneous lupus. This is a type of lupus that only affects the skin, causing rashes and lesions.
  3. Drug-induced lupus. This is a condition similar to lupus and caused by specific medications. Common medications include hydralazine, procainamide, and isoniazid. This type is more common in men.
  4. Neonatal lupus. This is a lupus form that affects babies of women with lupus. This form of lupus is rare.

Who is at risk for developing lupus?

Anyone is at risk for developing lupus; however, some people have a higher risk than others. While no specific cause is known for lupus, it is known to be hereditary.

People who are at higher risk include the following:

  • Women from years 15 to 44
  • African Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders
  • With a family history of lupus

Common symptoms of lupus

Lupus symptoms can vary significantly from one person to another and present as mild to severe. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, headaches, joint pain and stiffness, a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, and mouth sores; these are just a few examples.

Early signs of lupus are the same as the typical signs and symptoms. These early signs can include a butterfly rash on the face, joint pain, and fatigue. However, the early signs of lupus can vary widely based on each person. Most commonly, lupus affects your skin, joints, and organs (kidney and heart) but can also affect any other part of the body.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Butterfly rash on the face
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Pain in the joints
  • Swelling in the eyes, hands, and feet
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Fevers
  • Light sensitivity
  • Chest pain with breathing

It is important to remember that everyone experiences lupus differently, and if you think you may have early signs of lupus, it is vital that you discuss them with your doctor.

How is lupus diagnosed?

Diagnosis of lupus can often be challenging for doctors because the signs and symptoms of the condition are similar to several other illnesses; also, each person may present with different symptoms. There is no lab test or diagnostic tool to determine if you have lupus.

A doctor will usually perform various tests to determine whether lupus is the cause of particular symptoms. These tests may include blood tests, urine samples, imaging scans, and an analysis of a person’s medical history:

  • Blood tests. These can show whether your body is having immune responses, blood clotting complications, and blood cell numbers that could be abnormal.
  • Urine samples. These can also show the doctor if lupus is affecting your kidneys.
  • Imaging scans and biopsies. These can be done to check for specific tissue and joint inflammation.

Early detection can reduce inflammation and prevent more serious complications associated with lupus if treatments such as medications or lifestyle modifications are administered soon after diagnosis.

Treatment for lupus

Treatment for lupus typically involves a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and ongoing monitoring. Medicines used to treat lupus vary depending on which organs the disease affects. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to more powerful immunosuppressants like steroids.

The main treatment goal for lupus is to treat symptoms, control your immune system, and protect your joints and organs from damage. Finding the proper treatment for lupus can take time, depending on the symptoms that you have. A specialist called a rheumatologist will help you find the right treatment plan.

A healthy lifestyle with lupus

Living with lupus can be challenging, but one can still lead a healthy life with the right amount of planning and proactivity. An adequate sleep schedule and avoiding stress are vital to managing lupus symptoms.

Staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is beneficial for overall health. Exercise is also important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, it is essential to remember that exercise should not cause over-exertion of our bodies.

Lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity, improved sleep habits, and stress management can help with symptom relief and overall well-being.

Regular doctor visits are necessary for monitoring disease activity and potential complications that may arise over time. Although living with lupus is a challenge for many, working closely with a healthcare team will ensure that the best course of treatment is provided to manage symptoms.

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