The mystery of lupus

May 09, 2017 | by Nina Lundberg, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Lupus is a difficult diagnosis.

Not only are the symptoms tough to deal with, but diagnosing the disease takes some detective work.

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning your body’s immune system starts attacking your own healthy body systems. The cause can be related to genetics, hormones, medication or exposure to chemicals.

The symptoms vary, and can be different for each person. Often symptoms of lupus mimic other diseases, and they can change or disappear for a while, then reappear.

Mayo Clinic provides this list of common symptoms:

  • Fatigue and fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud's phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss

People who have lupus may have a handful of those symptoms, which could link to a variety of diseases. The Lupus Foundation of America reports that, on average, it takes nearly six years for people with lupus to be diagnosed, from the time they first notice their symptoms.

Many people have never heard of lupus  especially people in the demographic most likely to have lupus, women of childbearing age, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. Most people with lupus develop the disease between the ages of 15-44. Men, teens and children can also develop lupus.

So how can a doctor tell if your symptoms are, in fact, caused by lupus? It takes a combination of tools  blood tests, urine tests, physical exams and analysis of your symptoms. If the evidence adds up, we proceed with a diagnosis.

And while there is no cure for lupus, you can manage the symptoms with lifestyle choices and medication. See your doctor for a check-up if you experience any combination of these symptoms.

Our experienced rheumatologists are skilled at diagnosing and treating lupus and other rheumatic conditions. Learn more.

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