Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s natural defense mechanism: the immune system. Lupus attacks healthy tissues instead of fighting against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. This malfunction causes inflammation throughout the entire body.
Because lupus can affect so many different organs, a wide range of symptoms can occur. Most symptoms come and go over time, and different symptoms can appear at various stages during the course of the disease.
It is very difficult to diagnose lupus since many of its symptoms also occur due to other unrelated illnesses. In fact, lupus is sometimes called “the great imitator” because its symptoms mimic the signs of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and Lyme disease. It also shares symptoms with a variety of blood disorders, thyroid conditions, and a number of heart, lung, muscle, and bone diseases.
Signs and Symptoms of Lupus
Fever is often one of the first signs of an infection. Patients with lupus can develop fevers because their immune system is fighting healthy tissues, and often ignoring other infections and viruses. It is very important to take precautions and monitor your temperature regularly if you suffer from lupus.
Many lupus patients experience joint stiffness, especially in the morning. People often find that taking warm showers helps to relieve this problem. In addition, over-the-counter pain treatments like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can ease the symptoms and decrease inflammation in the joints.
Lupus flares, which are periods when the disease is especially active, can sometimes cause weight loss. Certain medications used to treat lupus can also cause loss of appetite. An autoimmune specialist can suggest home therapies and other solutions that will ease stomach discomfort and allow lupus patients to maintain a normal diet.
While some lupus patients experience weight loss, others gain weight. This is typically caused by medications, including corticosteroids. It is very important to have a balanced diet and moderate calorie consumption and to participate in light to moderate exercise on a regular basis. This can not only help you to maintain a healthy weight, but it improves cardiovascular system functions and increases emotional wellness. In addition, maintaining a healthy weight helps to alleviate joint stress and keeps all of the organs working productively and efficiently.
Fatigue and Malaise
Many people who suffer from lupus experience general fatigue and malaise. This symptom can usually be managed by having a healthy lifestyle. That includes getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. Another key factor is to stay as active and mobile as possible, sticking to a daily routine that includes exercise.
Depression and anxiety are present in almost one-third of all people with lupus. This symptom may be triggered by other lupus symptoms, including lack of sleep, tiredness and appetite problems, but it can also be caused by steroid medications. Your doctor can help you to determine whether your depression is a symptom of lupus or a side effect of your medication, and can help you to treat it accordingly.
Many people with lupus suffer from gastrointestinal problems, especially heartburn caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Peptic ulcers can also occur, often due to certain medications used in lupus treatment, including NSAIDs and steroids. Although antacids are effective, it is advisable to take precautions. This includes eating smaller meals, remaining upright after eating, and reducing your caffeine intake.
The thyroid is a gland, located in the neck, which is associated with metabolism and other important functions. Because lupus damages the immune system, it can sometimes cause autoimmune thyroid disease to develop as well.
A thyroid gland that is functioning improperly can affect the function of organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and skin. Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, fatigue, depression, moodiness, and dry hair and skin. Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss, heart palpitations, tremors, heat intolerance, and eventually lead to osteoporosis. Hypothyroidism is usually treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy while hyperthyroidism can only be cured with anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine.