What are the signs and symptoms?
Normally, the immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect and fight against antigens like viruses and bacteria. Lupus (medically called Lupus erythematosus) distorts the immune system so it is unable to distinguish between antigens and normal healthy tissues. Thus, the immune system tends to direct antibodies to fight against the healthy tissues as well – causing pain, swelling and damage to the healthy tissues.
The signs and symptoms of Lupus often imitate those of other illnesses and make it difficult to diagnose. A rash that looks like the unfolded wings of a butterfly across both cheeks is the most distinctive sign of lupus; however it does not appear in all cases.
Each case of Lupus is different and unique and is based on the variety of symptoms that presents depending on the affected body part. Lupus Symptoms maybe mild, severe, temporary or permanent or they may occasionally develop slowly or appear abruptly.
Most people with Lupus experience their symptoms to a mild degree characterized by episodes — called flares – where the symptoms manifests for a while, before disappearing completely for a time.
In general the most common signs and symptoms of Lupus episodes or Lupus flares include:
- Extreme or prolonged fatigue
- Weight loss or gain
- Aching joints (arthralgia), arthritis, and swelling, pain and stiffness of joints, especially in wrists, small joints of the hands, elbows, knees, and ankles
- Butterfly-shaped rash (malar rash) on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose
- Skin lesions especially on the arms, hands, face, neck, or back that appear or worsen with sun exposure.
- Mouth sores or nose ulcers
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Shortness of breath / Chest pain on deep breathing
- Dry eyes
- Easy bruising
- Memory loss
- Sun or light intensity (photo-sensitivity)
- Blood clotting problems
What causes Lupus?
The exact cause of Lupus is not known. As in most human disease, it appears that Lupus develops as a result of a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors.
A person is more likely to inherit a predisposition to develop Lupus than someone in the general population. More probably, an inherited predisposition for lupus makes the disease more likely to flare after coming in contact with some environmental trigger. 90% of all cases of Lupus are found in women giving an indication that the disease may be triggered by certain hormones. Environmental factors that can contribute to the development of this disease include:
- Extreme stress
- Certain medications, such as cardiac medications procainamide and hydralazine
- Chemical exposure to compounds such as trichloroethylene in well water and dust
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation, infection with Epstein-Barr virus. Hepatitis C infections, cytomegalovirus (CMV), parvovirus (such as fifth disease)