Lupus symptoms will depend on the type; there are two types of lupus: Discoid Lupus Erythematosus and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Both disorders are more common in females, usually women in their late teens to 30s, but children, mostly girls and order men and women can also be affected.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus is characterized by a persistent rash that may occur sporadically for years. The rash consists of patches which change over time. They first appear red and round about the diameter of a pencil eraser. They are found on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, scalp and ears, back of arms, shins and upper trunk. They can also occur as mouth blisters and sores. Sometimes a person experiences aches in joints and a decreased number or white blood cells.
The other more severe type of lupus is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This auto-immune type of lupus can be quite mild or it can be chronic and severe, disabling and even fatal. The variety and severity of the symptoms may vary greatly from one person to another. Lupus may at times resemble epilepsy (when brain function is impaired) or rheumatoid arthritis.
Skin rashes and mouth sores are also common in systemic lupus involving the face, nose, neck, upper chest, hands and arms. The rashes are typically raised bumps which often blister and become raw. Sometimes the membranes surrounding the lungs become filled with extra fluid (pleurisy) and breathing becomes painful. Many people develop an enlarged spleen. When the nervous system is affected, headaches prevail as well as personality changes, seizures and dementia symptoms.
- rashes on face (butterfly-shaped rash on bridge of nose and on cheeks)
- rash on body including neck, arms and hands, shins
- hair loss caused by scarring
- mouth sores and blisters
- sunlight sensitivity
- high fever or episodes of fever
- general feeling of malaise
- joint inflammation such as mild to severe arthritis
- fluid build up around the lungs, heart
- low platelet and white blood cell count
- brain or personality changes
It is often difficult to diagnose lupus because of the varied symptoms and wide range of characteristics associated with the disease. Laboratory tests including a blood test to detect antinuclear antibodies are performed to help confirm the diagnosis.
In combination with the blood test, a test for antibodies to double-stranded DNA is performed. Blood tests also determine complement levels (proteins that are part of the immune system) and may predict the activity and progression of the lupus disease. Blood and urine tests may also determine any kidney damage. This may include a biopsy of kidney tissue.
If the symptoms of lupus are caused by drug interaction, which is sometimes the case, discontinuation of the drug usually cures the lupus. Since the skin is highly sensitive to light, patients should avoid exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet light. Sunscreen must be used to prevent some of the skin eruptions.
Mild lupus may require no treatment whereas severe lupus disease is often treated immediately with a course of prednisone, often in combination with immunosuppressive drug treatment. Pregnant women with lupus need constant medical supervision because miscarriages and flare-ups after childbirth are common. Flare-ups rarely occur after menopause.