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What are the symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)?
Lupus symptoms vary widely, and they come and go. The times when symptoms get worse are called relapses, or flares. The times when symptoms are under control are called remissions.
Lupus symptoms depend on what body organs are affected and how seriously they are affected.
Many people have these symptoms:
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 rashes are often an important clue to the diagnosis. Many people have a butterfly rash 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.
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).
Over time, people with lupus may get swollen lymph glands during a flare.
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 people may have include:
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.
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.
Over time, some people with lupus have problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, blood cells, or nervous system.