When your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs, it develops the disease lupus (autoimmune disease). Lupus-related inflammation can impact a variety of bodily functions, including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. Because of how frequently its signs and symptoms resemble those of other illnesses, lupus can be challenging to diagnose. In many but not all cases of lupus, the most recognizable lupus symptom—a face rash that looks like butterfly wings expanding across both cheeks—occurs. Some people are predisposed to lupus from birth, which can be brought on by illnesses, medications, or even sunshine. Lupus has no known cure, however medicines can help manage symptoms.
Lupus cases vary greatly from one another. The appearance of signs and symptoms might be abrupt or gradual, moderate or severe, transient or permanent. The majority of lupus sufferers have mild disease that is characterized by episodes, or flares, where symptoms worsen for a while, then improve or even go away entirely for a period.
The body systems that are impacted by the disease will determine the signs and symptoms of lupus you experience. The most typical warning signs and symptoms are:
- Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
- Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
Lupus is an autoimmune illness, meaning it develops when your body's healthy tissue is attacked by your immune system. It's likely that a mix of your genetics and environment led to the development of lupus.
It seems that individuals who have a hereditary propensity for lupus may develop the condition when they come into contact with an environmental trigger. In the majority of instances, the cause of lupus is unknown. Among the possible triggers are:
- Sunlight. Exposure to the sun may bring on lupus skin lesions or trigger an internal response in susceptible people.
- Infections. Having an infection can initiate lupus or cause a relapse in some people.
- Medications. Lupus can be triggered by certain types of blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications and antibiotics. People who have drug-induced lupus usually get better when they stop taking the medication. Rarely, symptoms may persist even after the drug is stopped.
Factors that may increase your risk of lupus include:
- Your sex. Lupus is more common in women.
- Age. Although lupus affects people of all ages, it's most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45.
- Race. Lupus is more common in African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.
Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many areas of your body, including your:
- Kidneys. Serious kidney disease can result from lupus, and renal failure is one of the main reasons why patients with lupus pass away.
- Brain and central nervous system. You may encounter headaches, vertigo, behavioral changes, vision issues, strokes, or seizures if your brain is impacted by lupus. Many lupus patients have memory issues and may struggle to verbalize their thoughts.
- Blood and blood vessels. Anemia (low levels of healthy red blood cells) and an elevated risk of bleeding or blood clotting are two blood issues that lupus may cause. Blood vessel irritation may also result from it.
- Lungs. Having lupus raises your risk of developing a chest cavity lining irritation, which can make breathing difficult. Also possible are pneumonia and bleeding into the lungs.
- Heart. Your heart muscle, arteries, or heart membrane may become inflamed as a result of lupus. Additionally, there is a significant rise in the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular illness.
Other types of complications
Having lupus also increases your risk of:
- Infection. Because lupus can weaken the immune system, both the disease and its therapies make lupus patients more susceptible to infection.
- Cancer. Although the danger is tiny, having lupus seems to raise your risk of developing cancer.
- Bone tissue death. This happens when the blood flow to a bone decreases, which frequently causes little breaks in the bone before the bone eventually collapses.
- Pregnancy complications. Miscarriage is more likely to occur in lupus-affected women. Preterm birth and high blood pressure during pregnancy are made more likely by lupus. Doctors frequently advise waiting until your disease has been under control for at least six months before getting pregnant in order to lower the risk of these consequences.