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Early Symptoms of Lupus

Early Symptoms of Lupus

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. The following HealthHearty write-up provides information on the types of lupus erythematosus, and some of its characteristic symptoms.
Dr. Maisie M
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2018
Lupus is an inflammatory condition that could affect the skin, joints, and/or internal organs such as the kidneys, heart, or lungs. It's an autoimmune condition, wherein the immune system is unable to differentiate between the abnormal cells and the healthy cells and tissues of the body. The antibodies attack the healthy cells and tissues, mistaking them to be abnormal cells.

It is believed that genetic factors or environmental factors such as exposure to certain viruses or ultraviolet light may trigger the onset of this condition. Discoid lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus, drug-induced lupus erythematosus, and neonatal lupus erythematosus are some of the types of lupus. Early diagnosis is difficult due to the mild nature of the early symptoms of lupus.

Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), which is a systemic autoimmune disease, affects all the systems of the body, and is more likely to affect women than men and children. The onset of the symptoms of SLE could be sudden or gradual. The patients often experience periods of remission, followed by flare-ups. Here are some of the early symptoms of SLE:

  • Fever
  •  Malaise
  • Fatigue
  • Butterfly-shaped rash over the bridge of the nose, and across the cheeks
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  •  Increased sensitivity to the ultraviolet rays of the sun
  •  Raynaud's phenomenon (blue, red, or white coloration at the fingertips, and/or other peripheral regions)
  •  Easy bruising
  • Confusion
  • Stiffness in joints and muscle pain
  • Mouth ulcers
  •  Anemia
  • Achy joints
  •  Chest pain while breathing
  •  Hair loss

SLE can also affect the internal organs such as the heart, kidneys, and lungs. It can put the affected individuals at a risk of developing myocarditis, pericarditis, pleuritis, kidney infections, etc. SLE also increases the risk of miscarriages. If a pregnant woman has lupus erythematosus or is carrying lupus antibodies, these can be transferred through the placenta to her unborn child, thereby leading to Neonatal Lupus Erythematosus. This is a rare but serious condition that could cause skin rashes, congenital heart block, or anemia in affected infants.

Symptoms of Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) refers to a mild form of lupus erythematosus wherein only the skin is affected.

Here are some of the characteristic symptoms of DLE:

  •  Development of a red rash with raised borders on the face or scalp
  •  Scarring due to the rash on the scalp, leading to bald patches or hair loss

DLE can usually be successfully controlled using medication, and by avoiding exposure to direct sunlight. DLE usually affects the skin, but in some cases, it can progress to the body's tissues and organs.

Symptoms of Drug-induced Lupus Erythematosus

Drug-induced lupus erythematosus is associated with the use of certain drugs that are prescribed for treating heart conditions, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Some of the drugs that have been associated with this condition include hydralazine, procainamide, quinidine, isoniazid, diltiazem, and minocycline. It must be noted that the symptoms induced by drug use are totally reversible after drug withdrawal.

Some of the symptoms of drug-induced lupus erythematosus include:

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin rash that worsens with exposure to sunlight

Since some of the aforementioned symptoms could be observed in other illnesses, doctors often conduct certain diagnostic tests and analyze the patient's medical history to identify the underlying cause. Once lupus erythematosus is confirmed as the underlying cause, a treatment regimen needs to be meticulously followed to manage the symptoms. The affected individuals need to keep a watch on the signs of relapse, since SLE tends to show flare-ups from time to time. Over the years, lupus fatality rate has significantly decreased due to timely diagnosis and availability of better drugs. The disease prognosis has greatly improved with recent advances in the field of medicine.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.