Lupus is a disease of the autoimmune system that causes widespread inflammation. It also causes a range of other symptoms that can be mild to severe in nature. Pain is a common complaint among lupus patients and can affect any part of the body. According to Medical News Today, most people with lupus develop the condition between the ages of 18 and 44. It only strikes children under 17 years old in about 15 percent of cases. Approximately 1.5 million Americans currently have lupus.
Living with lupus means dealing with frequent flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of complete remission. Early on, this pattern can make it easy to dismiss symptoms as being something else or not important enough for medical attention. As lupus progresses, however, people begin to see the patterns and realize they need help from their doctor.
Symptoms That May Indicate You Have Lupus
The presentation of lupus symptoms is usually subtle at first and gradually worsens over time. Doctors sometimes misdiagnose lupus as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia because it affects the same organs that those conditions do. It is important to track your symptoms carefully and describe them in detail to your rheumatologist to avoid the frustration of misdiagnosis. The most common symptoms associated with lupus include:
- Abnormal clotting of blood
- Chest pain upon taking a deep breath
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Fever not explained by another cause
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Hair loss
- Joint pain
- Kidney issues
- Muscle aches
- Oral ulcers
- Persistent fatigue
- Rash of the face in the same shape as a butterfly
- Raynaud’s disease, which means your fingers turn a different color than your skin when cold
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Skin changes
- Sores on the nose, scalp, or in the mouth
- Swelling of feet and hands
Any of these symptoms warrant a call to United Hospital Center (UHC) Rheumatology.
When you schedule an appointment with the rheumatology department, the first thing our rheumatologists will do is discuss your complete medical history. This includes reviewing your written log of symptoms to see if the severity level has increased over time. You should also come prepared to discuss your family medical history, especially as it relates to lupus and other autoimmune disorders.
A blood test allows your rheumatologist to detect areas of inflammation as well as rule out other similar medical conditions. The antinuclear antibody test is helpful for detecting the presence of an autoimmune disorder. Should you present with only mild symptoms, your provider may recommend monitoring them and returning for another appointment if they start to worsen.
Unfortunately, lupus is a chronic condition with no known cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms that allow you to live as normal of a life as possible. Treatment varies between patients based on what they can tolerate and how effective it is at keeping lupus symptoms from disrupting their life. Sometimes it will be necessary to change course after starting treatment if it is no longer effective. These are some of the most popular medications for lupus available today:
- Anti-malaria drugs: Chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine are two effective drugs normally prescribed for malaria that can reduce the number and intensity of lupus symptoms including joint pain, rashes, and inflammation.
- BLyS-specific inhibitors: B cells produce immune cells that in turn create antibodies to fight disease. With lupus, the B cells grow abnormally and your own immune system attacks different parts of your body. This drug prevents that from happening.
- Corticosteroids: Steroids in pill form can help to reduce the physical pain associated with lupus. If you have skin issues, a non-prescription steroid cream can help manage them. Some patients respond better to steroid shots than pills or cream.
- Immunosuppressant drugs: This classification of drug suppresses the immune system to make it less likely to attack your own body. Although effective, immunosuppressant drugs do come with the risk of developing a significant infection.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Ibuprofen is one typical example of a non-prescription drug that can help to ease chronic pain.
Consequences of Not Treating Lupus
Unfortunately, lupus can have serious repercussions if left untreated. For example, untreated lupus can lead to blood disorders such as anemia or thrombosis. Other potential serious complications include:
- Chronic digestive distress that could include difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, indigestion, intestinal inflammation, liver enlargement, or pain when vomiting or feeling nauseous.
- Coronary issues such as heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, or inflammation of the lining of the heart.
- Inflamed kidneys causing urine abnormalities and leg swelling.
- Lung issues that can include inflammation of layers of the lung.
- Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, personality changes, or an ongoing sense of pessimism.
- Neurological issues such as difficulty concentrating, slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, strokes, or seizures.
- Pregnancy complications such as premature delivery, preeclampsia, or miscarriage. The baby may also be born with heart problems.
It is much better to treat lupus early and manage your symptoms than to develop any of these long-term complications.
Schedule an Appointment with UHC Rheumatology Today
Dealing with lupus can be extraordinarily challenging. If you suspect that you have developed this autoimmune disorder, we urge you to request an appointment as soon as possible. You may contact UHC Rheumatology directly at 681-342-3490.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.