Out of all of the diseases, lupus is one of the trickiest to diagnose. This is because each case of lupus is different from every other case. Some people suffer from severe symptoms. Other people only have to put up with a few mild aches and pains. Combine that with the fact that lupus symptoms vary from patient to patient, and you have a nightmare for doctors and patients. Some symptoms are more frequent than others, though. The following symptoms are ten signs of lupus you shouldn’t ignore. If you have four or more, you may want to see your doctor.
10. Tender Bumps on Your Neck (and Other Areas)
When lupus manifests, it makes your immune system attack your own body parts. That includes your lymph nodes—the small pods in your body that help combat disease by filtering out invading viruses, bacteria, and other dangerous material. In response, the nodules will swell up under your skin as they work to get fight off the attack. The most common place you’ll notice them is along your neck, but the nodules can swell up anywhere. Other common areas include behind your ears and your jaw, as well as your armpits and groin.
9. Sunlight Triggers a Rash
Getting a red rash on your face after you’ve been out in the sun is a symptom unique to lupus. It can look like a butterfly, and it may linger on your face long after you’ve gone indoors. This symptom occurs in almost half of lupus patients. The rash might also develop before another symptom starts acting up.
Variations on this rash include lesions on other body parts, or more rarely hives. The rash might also be triggered by exposure to bright light in general.
8. You Feel Like You’re Going Crazy
Some lupus patients get diagnosed when they go to a psychiatrist to be treated for schizophrenia. Lupus can turn your immune system on any organ, including the brain. This can result in people thinking they’re going through a psychotic break. Symptoms can include confusion, paranoia, and seizures, in addition to visual and auditory hallucinations. A doctor may suspect lupus if these symptoms occur suddenly with no prior record of the patient suffering from mental illness.
7. You’re Exhausted All the Time
If you feel you can’t get out of bed in the morning, you may have lupus. However, exhaustion on its own isn’t necessarily a symptom of lupus. That’s because exhaustion can indicate several disorders, from depression to mononucleosis to cancer. Exhaustion is best considered a “support symptom.” It isn’t indicative of any one particular illness, but it can aid a doctor’s diagnosis when other symptoms accompany it.
6. Your Hands and Feet are Freezing
Many people have cold feet or hands. If you have lupus, though, you may suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome, which affects blood circulation in your hands and feet. This can result in your fingers and toes getting so cold that they start to go numb or even turn blue.
Raynaud’s syndrome can also cause your extremities to feel cold and turn blue when you get stressed. This condition can even extend to your ears, nose, and lips. After you’ve been warmed up, your circulation will return to normal in about 15 minutes.Related: 13 Autoimmune Disorders That Cause Your Body to Attack Itself
5. Chest Pain
Chest pain is something that should never be ignored. Even if your doctor rules out a heart attack, chest pain is another potential symptom of lupus. The disease can cause the sacs around your heart to swell, resulting in a constant, dull pain in your chest.
Lupus can also affect your lungs, leading to constant shortness of breath. Over time, the disease can even shrink your lungs. It may even affect your diaphragm, resulting in constant chest pain when you take a breath.
4. Unending Heartburn
Lupus can also inflame the stomach and intestines, causing several gastrointestinal symptoms. Heartburn is very common, especially heartburn that won’t go away. This can sometimes be treated with antacids, but many people with lupus find that over-the-counter cures won’t take care of their symptoms. Other gastrointestinal issues may include stomach cramps, acid indigestion, and diarrhea. These symptoms are so common that many people overlook them. However, if your symptoms have been giving you trouble for several days in a row, you may want to visit your doctor.
3. You Feel like You’ve Got Arthritis but You’re Only 30
If you have painful, swollen joints, it may be the onset of arthritis. If you’re in your 30s, though, you may want to talk with a doctor about whether your arthritis is actually a symptom of lupus. Many young lupus patients especially feel these arthritis-like symptoms in their legs, with the pain being mild at first before gradually worsening. The pain is usually at its worst in the morning, but lets up as the day progresses. Like some types of arthritis, joint pain caused by lupus can come and go.Related: 14 Medical Conditions That May Stump Your Doctor
2. You’re Losing Weight but You’re Not on a Diet
While most people might think that rapid weight loss is a dream come true, it may be one of the first symptoms of lupus. Lupus can cause your immune system to attack your thyroid gland, which can seriously unbalance your hormones, causing you to lose a lot of weight fast. However, lupus can also cause water retention, which may cause you to look like you’re gaining weight. Either way, rapid fluctuations in weight are rarely positive. If you experience this, get to a doctor immediately to find out what is going on.
1. You Have Lots of Random, Unexplained Symptoms That Don’t Go Away
As you may have noticed, almost all the previous symptoms can be also be caused by other illnesses. Each lupus patient’s symptoms are different because their symptoms depend on which organ is being attacked by the immune system. Worse yet is that the symptoms can flare up, then lie dormant without any regularity. If you have multiple symptoms that seem to flare up every once in a while, it could be a sign of lupus. Keep records of your symptoms and, again, talk with your doctor. Diagnosing lupus can be tricky, but feeling healthy again is well worth the effort.Related: 12 Ways You Can Avoid Painful Lupus Flareups