Lupus can affect nearly any organ in the body and the symptoms can differ between individuals. For instance, one person with lupus may experience swollen knees and fever, while another may be consistently tired or have kidney issues.
Over time, new symptoms may appear or existing ones may lessen. Usually, the symptoms do not remain constant and will come and go in cycles of flare-ups (when the symptoms get worse and the person feels ill) and remissions (when the symptoms improve and the person feels better).
Pacific Arthritis is a rheumatology group practice located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica that specializes in the treatment of arthritis, certain autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal pain disorders, and osteoporosis. There are over 100 of these conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, back pain, fibromyalgia, and tendonitis. These diseases can be complex to diagnose and treat, but with the help of a caring team of physicians, you can take control of your treatment plan and manage your symptoms.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues and organs. This can lead to inflammation that affects several body systems, such as the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. Lupus can be difficult to diagnose, since its signs and symptoms may be similar to other illnesses.
A facial rash resembling the wings of a butterfly across both cheeks is a common but not a definite sign of lupus. For some people, the tendency to develop lupus may be inherited, and it can be triggered by infections, certain drugs, or even exposure to sunlight. Unfortunately, there is no cure for lupus, but treatments are available to help manage its symptoms.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body. It is believed that the development of lupus is likely to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors. People with a family history of lupus may be more susceptible to developing the condition when exposed to specific environmental triggers. In most cases, however, the exact cause of lupus remains unknown.
Some potential triggers include:
- Sun Exposure. Exposure to the sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response.
- Infections. Having an infection can initiate lupus or cause a relapse.
- Medications. Lupus can be triggered by certain types of blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, and antibiotics. People with drug-induced lupus usually get better when they stop taking the medication.
The effects of lupus vary from person to person; no two cases are exactly alike. Symptoms may appear suddenly or gradually, be mild or severe, and may be temporary or long-lasting.
Most people with lupus have a milder form of the disease characterized by episodes, known as flares or flare-ups, in which symptoms worsen for a period of time before improving or disappearing. The specific body systems which are affected by lupus will determine the specific signs and symptoms you experience.
The most common signs and symptoms include:
1. Muscle and joint pain. You may experience pain and stiffness, with or without swelling. This is one of the most common symptoms of lupus. Daily areas of muscle pain and swelling include the neck, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms.
2. Fever. A fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit can affect many people with lupus. The inflammation can lead to a fever, but it’s important to make sure you don’t have a coexisting infection, especially with even higher fevers.
3. Rashes. A rash may appear on any part of the body exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms, and hands. One common sign of lupus is a red, butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. If left untreated, these rashes can sometimes leave scars.
4. Chest pain. Lupus can trigger inflammation in the lung lining which causes pain when inhaling.
5. Sun or light sensitivity. Most people with lupus erythema can become sensitive to light. Photosensitivity can cause rash, fever, fatigue, or joint pain.
6. Kidney problems. Half of the patients with lupus also have kidney problems, called lupus nephritis. Symptoms include weight gain, ankle swelling, elevated blood pressure, and a decrease in kidney function. Left untreated, lupus nephritis can be life-threatening.
7. Mouth sores. These sores are also known as ulcers and usually appear on the roof of the mouth, but can also appear in the cheeks and lips of the gums. The ulcers may be painless or cause pain and dry mouth.
8. Prolonged or extreme fatigue. Even if you have enough sleep, lupus can cause extreme fatigue. Often, fatigue is a warning of an impending lupus flare-up.
9. Anemia. Lupus fatigue may be caused by anemia. Anemia occurs when your body does not have the red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
10. Blood clotting. Patients with lupus may have a higher risk of blood clotting. This can cause blood clots in the legs or lungs, stroke, heart disease, or repeated miscarriages.
Additionally: Hair loss. Some patients with lupus may experience hair thinning as result of the autoimmune disease affecting the scalp.
Lupus is a serious condition, but with proper medical intervention, you can treat or prevent symptoms and complications related to the disease. At Pacific Arthritis, technological advances are making it easier and more secure for patients to meet with their physicians from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Pacific Arthritis offers online appointments for new and current patients available on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. If you are suffering from the symptoms of Lupus and are interested in scheduling an in-person or telemedicine appointment, contact our office at (310) 297-9221.