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What Are the 12 Symptoms of Lupus?

Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2020

What is lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints and causes inflammation in other systems as well.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body attacks healthy tissue. It affects joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels, leading to inflammation and tissue damage of the affected organs. More than 90% of cases occur in females.

What are the 12 symptoms of lupus?

Fatigue, fever, joint pain and weight changes are usually the first signs of SLE. The 12 most common symptoms of SLE include:

  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Arthralgia (joint pain)
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Butterfly shaped rash on the face
  • Oral ulcers
  • Blood cell abnormalities like anemia
  • Fever due to Immunological abnormalities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain caused due to inflammation of the lining that surrounds the lung (pleuritis) and the heart (pericarditis)
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (poor blood circulation to the fingers and toes with cold exposure)
  • Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)
  • Some adults may have a period of SLE symptoms known as flares which resolve and are separated by periods of remission. The frequency of flares and remission varies among people, sometimes extending to years.

    Apart from the above symptoms, some people with lupus experience nausea, indigestion, abdominal pain and confusion.

    How does a person get lupus?

    The exact cause of SLE is unknown. Researchers believe a combination of environmental, genetic and hormonal factors may contribute to getting lupus. 

    Environmental factors include:

    • Exposure to UV rays
    • Microbial response
    • Certain medications
    • Silica dust
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Sensitivity to light

    Other risk factors include:

    • Family history of SLE
    • Female sex
    • Chronic infections
    • Use of estrogen in menopausal women 
    • Vitamin D deficiency
    • Pregnancy (but breastfeeding has shown to decrease the risk of SLE)

    Early-life risk factors include:

    • Low birth weight (

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