What Are the Signs of Lupus?

By amara
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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Systemic lupus erythematosus, known as SLE or lupus, is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system of someone with lupus mistakenly attacks the person’s own cells as if they were foreign objects. Scientists are uncertain what causes the disease, but it appears to have a genetic component that is activated by environmental factors including ultraviolet light, viral infections, and exposure to certain particulate matter in the air.

Lupus is notoriously hard to diagnose, in part because different individuals can exhibit different symptoms, and because the symptoms can abate during times of remission. The average lupus patient spends six years waiting for a definitive diagnosis. Doctors use a series of laboratory tests to confirm the condition, but there are 10 common Signs that give early clues to the disease’s presence.

1. Skin Rashes

The quintessential lupus symptom is a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and both cheeks. Lupus means “wolf” in Latin, and the disease is named after the appearance of this symptom, which a doctor in the 1200s thought resembled either the bite of a wolf or perhaps the silhouette of a wolf’s face. The word erythematosus was added to the name in the 1800s, after the Greek word erythema which means “blush.”

Lupus-related rashes are not limited to the face, and distinctive round sores on the arms and legs also are common. When near the hairline or on the head, these lesions can damage hair follicles and cause hair to fall out or become brittle, giving the appearance of what is sometimes nicknamed “lupus hair.” These skin rashes often occur or worsen after sun exposure.


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