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Early Symptoms of Lupus

Updated on September 2, 2012
Some cells compared to SLE cells
Some cells compared to SLE cells | Source

SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus is an auto immune disease that attacks the system. The symptoms are many and varied, which cause SLE to often go undiagnosed for decades. Some people with the disorder are never diagnosed, especially if they already suffer from a disease like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

Lupus has been called one of the greatest imitators as the symptoms of lupus imitate those of other diseases. Some symptoms come and go at seemingly random times, it can be hard to visit a doctor at the exact time the symptoms are presenting.

Early Symptoms

Joint pain: This symptom can often be misinterpreted as arthritis. In the early stages this pain can be very mild, more of an annoyance. You may notice that the pain and stiffness only presents when your hands become cold. Redness of the joints is typical in the hands, starting with the first knuckles on the hands of the first and middle fingers.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, the pain and redness occur in one knuckle, then another, sometimes in one hand first. RA presents one both hands in most cases. In lupus related joint pain the pain and stiffness can come any time of the day, sometimes lasting all day, whereas RA related joint paint will begin upon waking and the stiffness may go away after an hour or so with movement.

Malaise: This is an odd sounding name for what most of us would call 'that weird feeling that something isn't right, but we don't know what'. You may feel a little depressed, sickish, not very hungry, and just out of sorts.

Fever: Random fevers that seem to come and go are associated with lupus, though not used as to diagnose. This is because fever can come and go with other infections and each person responds differently to infections. My own daughter would run raging fevers as a child with mild infections that did not affect her siblings in any way other than a runny nose or sore throat.

Fatigue: Lupus related fatigue starts off for most people as a tired feeling at random times. You may not even notice it or attribute your fatigue to anything except for being overworked or stressed. As SLE progresses, the fatigue can become crippling. Waking up and feeling as if you have not slept, feeling like you are going to fall asleep in the middle of the day, or being unable to perform things you do on a daily basis with no ill effects is one way to explain this fatigue.

These are some early signs, but cannot be used to determine SLE without blood tests. When the above symptoms are reported in combination with other advanced symptoms, doctors will usually begin to suspect SLE.

Some of the more advanced symptoms of SLE:

Chest pain, sometimes indicating infection around the lungs and/or heart.





Severe confusion


Skin rashes (usually seen in discoid lupus)

Sensitivity to sunlight

SLE is a serious disease that requires constant vigilance in health monitoring. While most people affected by SLE live long lives, SLE that is left untreated can and will result in a significantly shortened lifespan.

People that choose to avoid doctors may benefit from alternative treatments, though alternative treatments are not a replacement for expert analysis and treatment.


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    • profile image

      Sandy 2 years ago

      Well maamcadia nuts, how about that.

    • okmom23 profile image

      Donna Oliver 5 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Lupus, "The Great Imatator."

    • Julie Fletcher profile image

      Julie Fletcher 5 years ago

      Thanks for your comment :-)

      Yep, lupus is a imitator. I've met people on forums who are in their 50's and have been suffering since their late 20's with no diagnosis until recently.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

      The symptoms are ones that go along with many other diseases. I can see how the disease could be misdiagnosed by doctors.