Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can have negative effects on the joints, skin, and various organs of the body. Symptoms vary widely among patients, but some common signs of lupus include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and a skin rash, particularly on the face. More serious complications such as seizures and difficulty swallowing may occur in some patients. There is no cure for lupus, so treatment is aimed at controlling individual symptoms. Lupus can be mild in some patients and severe enough to be life-threatening in others.
Joint pain and arthritis are the most common signs of lupus, with most lupus patients having these symptoms. The joints of the hands, fingers, and knees are the most affected by lupus. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen may help with the pain and inflammation from swollen joints. In more severe cases, the doctor may prescribe stronger medications.
One of the signature signs of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. While this rash is common among lupus patients, not everyone with lupus will have this rash. It is also possible for some patients to develop a more widespread rash. Exposure to the sun often makes the rash worse.
Unexplained fever and fatigue are often signs of lupus. Swollen glands are also common among patients with lupus. Some patients may experience abdominal pain or periodic episodes of nausea or vomiting. As is the case with many of the signs of lupus, these symptoms may come and go in no predictable pattern.
Some of the more troublesome signs of lupus can include seizures, psychosis, or difficulty swallowing. Inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart and lungs may occur, leading to improper functioning of these vital organs. Some lupus patients may also experience kidney failure, requiring dialysis or transplantation with a donor kidney.
It is vitally important that any patient who has been diagnosed with lupus schedules regular appointments with a doctor, even if symptoms are mild. Regular physicals and laboratory testing can often detect new problems or complications early enough to prevent severe damage to the patient's overall health. Any woman with lupus who is planning on getting pregnant should discuss this with her doctor, as most physicians will recommend going off of all medications a few months before attempting to conceive. The pregnancy will then be considered high risk due to the potential complications, even though most women with lupus will be able to safely carry a baby to term.