Lupus causes many symptoms, but here are a few. Again, this list isn’t all-inclusive. How can you figure out what causes a symptom? Often all you need to do is consider the powerful inflammatory action that lupus causes, or the ending ‘itis:’ inflammation
- The malar rash (butterfly rash) is often the first thing that comes to mind when talking of the symptoms of lupus; but not everyone with lupus gets it. When the immune system mounts it attack on the skin (cutaneous lupus), the attack is either acute or chronic. If the attack is acute, (acute meaning it comes rapidly and ‘goes’ rapidly), you might see the classic “butterfly” rash. It is often referred to by doctors as ‘malar’ because of the location on the face where it occupies. Many also refer to it as the “butterfly rash” because it’s redness involves the bridge of the nose and the cheekbones, looking like the the body and wings of a butterfly.
- fatigue: The precise cause of lupus-related fatigue isn’t known, but disease activity, pain, age, and medicines can contribute to fatigue caused by lupus. Lupus compromises your sleep and too little sleep or poor-quality sleep can result in flares of your symptoms. During these flares, you’re likely to be depressed that there is more pain and other symptoms seem worse.
- chest pain. The lung is lined by a membrane, the pleura. Inflammation of the pleura results in the pleura rubbing rubbing up against the lung causing pain. This pain is usually a pain on inspiration (when you breathe in), a pain which may mimic the chest pain of a heart attack. This pain should never be taken lightly and should be reported to your doctor immediately. Most people who have/or had lupus, have had an instance of this inflammation.
- If the membrane surrounding and protecting the heart (pericardium) becomes inflamed, pericarditis can result. Symptoms of pericarditis often resemble those of a heart attack because there may be sharp, stabbing pain as the heart rubs agains the pericardium. There can also be a fast heart rate or a dry cough or shortness of breath. This should not be ignored.
- chest pain: Another source of chest pain is called costochondritis. I was privileged (?) to have costochondritis once and it felt like I’d been kicked in the chest: by a horse! Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum. Recurring episodes of costochondritis often lead doctors to make a more thorough exam and a diagnosis of lupus follows.
- shortness of breath in lupus can be caused by several things, too. If there is pleuritis (inflammation of the pleura, or pleuritis) pain of lupus is caused by pleuritic chest pain, the person might guard against the pain, by not taking deep breaths. Taking shallow breaths results in not getting enough air in the lungs; therefore shortness of breath.
- headache. The most common type of headache in lupus is the tension or muscle tension headache which will usually ‘go away on its own’ or with over-the-counter analgesics. Lupus also causes migraine headaches which are much more prevalent in lupus sufferers than non-lupus sufferers. However, another kind of headache is more rare, but much more serious and indicative of a life-threatening complication., meningitis. It is due to inflammation of the meninges (membranes which encase the brain). Your physician should be aware of a headache that you have.
These are just a few symptoms of lupus, but for brevity’s sake, I didn’t discuss them all. I’ll discuss others in another post.