There is a condition that affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S., yet 66% of people in the U.S. haven’t even heard of it. This condition is chronic and can be debilitating during a flare-up. What is this mysterious condition? It’s lupus, a chronic autoimmune disorder that is little known and largely misunderstood. Since lupus is substantially more prevalent in women, it’s important to know the more common lupus symptoms in women.
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic disease of the autoimmune system. Normally the immune system fights off germs and bacteria and then resettles into a “maintenance” mode, but for those with lupus, the immune system remains on high alert, attacking healthy tissues at will. The body loses its ability to distinguish between healthy, normal functioning and signs of potential illness, so it attacks every part of the body as a foreign invader.
Women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more likely to develop lupus, with the risk for women of color two to three times higher than that of other races. For best treatment options, it’s important to recognize lupus symptoms in women early.
Other important things to understand about lupus include:
- It’s not contagious and cannot be transmitted through any form of physical contact.
- Lupus is not the same thing as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). In lupus, the immune system is working overtime. In HIV, the immune system is struggling to function at all.
- Lupus can be successfully treated, and, although a chronic disease, it need not be fatal.
The most common lupus symptoms in women
Ten of the most common lupus symptoms in women include:
- Severe and unexplained fatigue
- Hair loss
- Unexplained, low-grade fever
- Chest pain when breathing (pleurisy)
- A butterfly-shaped skin rash that spreads over the nose and cheeks
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Painful, swollen, and achy joints
- Signs of kidney nephritis, or changes in urine
- Thyroid issues, leading to weight gain or loss
- Skin and vaginal dryness
Do note that symptoms of lupus vary depending on how the condition manifests itself in the patient’s body. Also, symptoms may come and go. Lupus is a condition characterized by flare-ups when symptoms are severe and remission when all symptoms may disappear.
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Beyond normal tiredness, fatigue occurs even after long periods of rest or sleep and is unrelieved. While this is one of the most common lupus symptoms in women, fatigue alone does not necessarily mean that lupus is the diagnosis.
2. Hair loss
While thinning hair is normal to a degree mostly dependent on genetics, another early lupus symptom in women is an accelerated pace of thinning hair. It is normal to lose around 100 strands of hair every day, but hair