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Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) (cont.)

Cause

The exact cause of lupus is not known. Experts believe that some people are born with certain genes that affect how the immune system works. These people are more likely to get lupus. Then a number of other factors can trigger lupus attacks. These include certain medicines, certain chemicals, tobacco smoke, certain infections, and sunlight. Although these things can trigger lupus, they may affect one person but not another person.

See What Increases Your Risk to learn more.

Symptoms

Lupus symptoms depend on what body organs are affected and how seriously they are affected.

Common symptoms

Many people have these symptoms:

  • Fatigue: Lupus causes mild to extreme fatigue. Even mild cases of lupus make it hard to do daily activities and exercise. Increased fatigue is a classic sign that a symptom flare is about to occur.
  • Joint and muscle pain: Joints may be painful, red, and warm. They may swell. Morning stiffness may also be felt. Lupus arthritis often occurs on both sides of the body at the same time. It's most often felt in the wrists, the small joints of the hands, and the elbows, knees, and ankles.
  • Skin problems: Skin rashes are often an important clue to the diagnosis. Many people have a butterfly rashClick here to see an illustration. over the cheeks and bridge of the nose. Other common skin symptoms include skin sores or flaky red spots on the arms, hands, face, neck, or back; mouth or lip sores; and a scaly, red or purple raised rash on the face, neck, scalp, ears, arms, and chest.
  • Sensitivity to light: Exposure to ultraviolet light (such as sunlight or tanning parlors) typically makes the skin rash worse and can trigger lupus flares. Many people with lupus are sensitive to light, with fair-skinned people tending to be more sensitive.
  • Fever: People with lupus will sometimes have a low-grade fever related to the disease. Fever is sometimes a first sign of the disease.
  • Changes in weight: People with lupus may lose weight when their disease is active (flaring).
  • Swollen glands: Over time, people with lupus may get swollen lymph glands during a flare.
  • Headaches: These are usually related to stress and tension but can be related to a lupus flare. Many people who have lupus get migraine headaches.

Other symptoms

  • Raynaud's phenomenon: Some people with lupus have Raynaud's phenomenon. It affects the small vessels that supply blood to the skin and the soft tissues under the skin of the fingers and toes. It causes them to turn white and/or blue or red. The skin affected will feel numb, tingly, and cold to the touch.
  • Hair loss: People with lupus may have periods of hair loss, either in patches or spread evenly over the head. This hair loss usually isn't permanent.
  • Inflammation of blood vessels in the skin (cutaneous vasculitis): Inflammation or bleeding from the blood vessels can lead to small or large blue spots or small reddish spots on the skin or nail beds.
  • Symptoms from complications. Complications include nervous system, heart, and lung problems.

There are other conditions with symptoms similar to lupus.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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