9 Subtle Warning Signs of Lupus All Women Should Know
When it comes to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, must women don't really know what to look out for regarding the symptoms. There are a number of subtle warning signs of lupus all women should know, especially since the disease tends to predominantly affect women between the ages of 15 and 34. Although some people do get a deluge of symptoms all at once, some women experience only a couple subtle symptoms at a time. It's easy to ignore some of these symptoms, since they may seem like nothing, but if they're occurring in conjunction, it's important to see a doctor to test for the disease.
"Lupus is a disease that is caused by something going wrong with the immune system — the part of the body that fights off invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and other germs," Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH tells Bustle. "Typically, B cells in our immune system produce proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. In a person with lupus, some B cells, called autoreactive B cells, react against your own body. The autoreactive B cells produce a type of protein called an autoantibody. Unlike normal antibodies, which react against foreign invaders, the autoantibodies attack your own body."
And as a result, some of these symptoms can be difficult to deal with on a daily basis. Consulting your doctor is the first step to getting help if you notice any of these nine subtle warning signs of lupus.
Compared with the general population, people with lupus may be twice as likely to experience migraine-like headaches, commonly known as lupus headaches, says Dr. Sethi. "The features of lupus headaches are similar to migraines and may be seen more often in people who also have Raynaud’s phenomenon [a disease that causes fingers and toes to feel numb in the cold]," he says. "However, headaches can also be caused by vasculitis, a symptom of active lupus due to inflammation of the blood vessels." Of course not all headaches will immediately indicate lupus, but talk to your doctor if frequent migraines are causing you concern.
If you're feeling tired all of the time, it might be a symptom of lupus. "Fatigue is one of the top complaints of people with symptoms of lupus," registered nurse Rebecca Lee tells Bustle. "This fatigue can get in the way of your everyday life and activities." Like headaches, fatigue can have many causes. Speaking with your doctor is the best way to get to the root of the cause.
3. Joint Swelling
"Inflammation can cause pain, stiffness, and visible swelling in your joints, particularly in the morning," says Dr. Sethi. "It may be mild at first and gradually become more obvious. Like other symptoms of lupus, joint problems can come and go."
4. Chest Pain
Inflammation of the lungs can happen in lupus, and this inflammation can extend to lung blood vessels and the diaphragm. "These conditions can lead to chest pain when one tries to breathe in," says Dr. Sethi. "This condition is often referred to as pleuritic chest pain." If you notice chest pain, accompanied by these other symptoms, consulting with your doctor can help you figure out if lupus is the cause.
5. Face Rash
"One of the most common symptoms of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash that appears over the bridge of the nose and on both cheeks," says Dr. Sethi. "Almost 50 percent of people with lupus have this rash. It can occur suddenly or appear after exposure to sunlight."
6. White Or Blue Fingers When Cold
People with lupus can have the smaller vessels in their fingers and toes highly constrict in response to temperature changes. "This phenomenon is called Raynaud’s phenomenon," says Dr. Sethi. "This can cause the fingers and toes turn white or blue."
7. Hair Loss Or Thinning
"Hair loss all over the body is one of the early symptoms of lupus," says Lee. "This is caused by inflammation in the body, which also affects the scalp." Hair can fall out in clumps, become brittle and break easily, while thinning slowly. While thyroid issues can also be attributed to thinning or losing hair, talking with your doctor can help you get a more accurate diagnosis.
8. Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is another symptom common in lupus, says Lee. This can also be accompanied by other issues in the GI system, including the surrounding organs such as the liver, pancreas, bile ducts, and gallbladder. If you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, and believe lupus may be to blame, talk with your doctor.
9. Low-Grade Fever
"An early symptom of lupus is an unexplained low-grade fever," says Lee. "Chronic low-grade fevers can be an indication of inflammation, inflection, and lupus flare-ups. This fever can come and go and may not cause much alarm since it usually does not go above 101 degrees F."
If you have any of these symptoms and suspect you might have lupus, be sure to see a doctor who can help you get a proper diagnosis.