Lupus Symptoms | 25 Of The Most Common Signs You Can’t Ignore

//Lupus Symptoms | 25 Of The Most Common Signs You Can’t Ignore

Lupus Symptoms | 25 Of The Most Common Signs You Can’t Ignore

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. How do you know if you have lupus? There are 25 lupus symptoms you can watch for.

What is lupus?  

A healthy immune system produces antibodies that attack foreign bodies, such as the flu virus. In a person with lupus, however, the immune system confuses healthy tissues for foreign bodies. Autoantibodies attack healthy tissues. This causes pain, swelling, and damage in the healthy tissues.

Women are more likely to be diagnosed than men. African American and Hispanic women have an even higher likelihood of diagnosis.

Only 33% of people in the U.S. even know what this condition is. That’s one of the major reasons why Lupus Awareness Month is such an important time to look at the symptoms of lupus, especially lupus symptoms in women, as they are the most affected group of people.

There are two main types of lupus, each with distinct symptoms: discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There are also two less common types of lupus. One is drug-induced. Certain medications can cause lupus-like symptoms. Usually, stopping the medication that’s causing the symptoms will stop the problems. The final type of lupus is neonatal.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), chronic cutaneous lupus

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), which is sometimes called chronic cutaneous lupus, mostly affects the skin. This type of lupus typically occurs while the other symptoms of lupus, such as joint or organ damage, aren’t occurring. It causes round (discoid) lesions or sores on the skin. These lesions can sometimes leave scars. If the discoid lesions occur in an area of the body with hair, the hair may fall out; if the lesion leaves a scar, the hair loss may be permanent.

Discoid lesions that are present for an extended time can also become cancerous. To prevent this, you may have to go to a dermatologist, or skin doctor, to make sure they’re treated properly.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) affects the skin, too; its effects on skin can sometimes be called acute cutaneous lupus. Most often, it causes the characteristic butterfly rash. More dangerous, however, are the other effects of SLE.

In SLE, the disease may attack connective tissues, which can lead to swollen, painful, or damaged joints. It may also attack the membranes around organs too, leading to inflammation or damage of the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain. Kidney damage is also a fairly common effect of SLE. Some people may even experience depression, confusion, seizure, or strokes as a result of lupus.

The disease can also affect blood vessels, causing Raynaud’s disease discussed below.

25 lupus symptoms you shouldn’t ignore

25 Lupus Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore |

1. Unexplained fever

Fever is often the first indication of infection in the body, and it is one of the first symptoms to present itself. This is not the only way to diagnose lupus, as unexplained fever is present in many other conditions, but it can be an early warning sign.

2. Fatigue

Ninety percent of those with lupus report fatigue that is unrelieved by sleep. This can be an especially difficult symptom to cope with, as napping during the day can lead to insomnia at night.

3. Joint stiffness and swelling

Autoimmune disorders often head straight for the tissues in the joint, causing painful inflammation and swelling. Joint stiffness and swelling combined with unexplained fever can be two symptoms that start to point towards a diagnosis.

4. Hair loss

Of the lupus symptoms in women, hair loss can be one of the most traumatic. In general, hair will begin to thin due to inflammation of the skin and on the scalp. Lesions may form, and if they are not able to be successfully treated, scars may prevent hair from growing back. If treatment is successful, the majority of people will see regrowth.

5. Skin rash and lesions

One of the tell-tale markers of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash that appears across the bridge of the nose and cheeks. For people already diagnosed, this is one of the symptoms of lupus that can indicate that a flare-up is imminent. Another serious (typically uncommon) form of lupus rash is a “bullous” lupus rash, which results in large blisters.

6. Chest pain

Pulmonary issues can be one of the more serious symptoms of lupus. It occurs when the delicate tissues and blood vessels of the lungs become inflamed, making breathing difficult and painful. This is often referred to as pleuritic chest pain. Over time, the size of the lungs can actually decrease, causing chronic chest pain and shortness of breath.

7. Kidney inflammation

Kidney inflammation, also called nephritis, causes inflammation in the kidneys that make it difficult for them to function. Toxins in the body and blood build up, causing swelling in the lower extremities, high blood pressure, darker urine, and pain in the side. When this symptom of lupus goes untreated it can lead to end-stage renal disease (untreatable kidney failure). Signs of nephritis require immediate attention.

8. Thyroid problems

Lupus attacks all systems of the body, and the thyroid is included. The thyroid helps control metabolism and appetite. Any changes to this gland can result in weight loss or gain. If lupus patients are taking corticosteroids to control pain and inflammation in joints, this could result in thyroid-related weight gain as well. Approximately 6% of people with lupus have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and about 1% have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

25 Lupus Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore |

9. Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is one of the lupus symptoms in women you cannot ignore, especially if you’re pregnant (or planning to be so). This is an autoimmune condition that makes it possible for a woman to pass neonatal lupus on to her child in utero. Pregnant women with a previous diagnosis of Sjogren’s (or lupus in general) should let their doctors know immediately, as neonatal lupus can cause serious issues for newborns, including congenital heart defects.

10. Dryness

Sjogren’s syndrome can also cause dryness in people with this condition. Sjogren’s syndrome affects the glands responsible for tears, saliva, and other mucous membranes in the body (e.g., the vagina). People with Sjogren’s may wake up with a gritty feeling in their eyes and mouth.

11. Depression

As with many chronic illnesses, depression can be a complicated comorbid condition. Approximately 33% of lupus patients report clinical depression, nearly double the incidence in the general population. Some of the causes of depression may be dealing with lupus itself, but medications like steroids taken for inflammation may also play a part.

12. Gastrointestinal issues

Many people with lupus experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a disease that can cause severe heartburn. Peptic ulcers can also form due to some medications for lupus.

13. Osteoporosis

Although not necessarily gender exclusive and not necessarily a specific symptom of lupus in women, the risk for osteoporosis rises for women who are taking prednisone as a treatment for this condition. This is more of a comorbid condition than a symptom, but it is worth considering the risks that can occur due to steroid medications that decrease bone density.

14. Anemia

Some people with lupus will experience anemia, a condition marked by a low red blood cell count that can result in weakness and fatigue. Your doctor can detect this with a complete blood count, a diagnostic tool often used when screening specifically for this condition.

15. Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s disease is when fingers and toes turn white or purple in response to stress or exposure to cold. Arteries delivering blood to the extremities spasm, resulting in poor circulation. In severe cases, this can lead to gangrene in the fingers and toes.

16. Heart disease

EverydayHealth reports that one of the most alarming symptoms in women is their increased rates of heart disease: “Women with lupus are 50 times more likely than others of the same age to have a heart attack or chest pain.” If you’re suffering from lupus, make sure to talk to your doctor about this related risk factor as well, so you can take steps to reduce your risk.

25 Lupus Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore |

17. Mouth sores

One of the more common symptoms of lupus is mouth or nasal sores. As explains:

“Mouth ulcers are one of the most common symptoms of lupus. But what makes a lupus mouth ulcer unique, says Dr. Gilkeson, is that it usually comes pain-free. And rather than developing on the sides of the mouth or gums, these sores typically reside on the roof of the mouth. Lupus-related ulcers can also appear inside the nose.”

18. Anxiety 

Anxiety is another mental health condition that often affects people with chronic pain conditions. It’s no different with lupus, women in particular. notes that a lot of the anxiety may be related to noticing and living with other symptoms.

19. Blood in urine

One of the more obvious symptoms is one that can also be indicative of other health conditions. With lupus, it’s related to kidney inflammation. Closely monitor any blood in the urine, persistent bladder infections, and other changes in urine.

20. Sun, or light, sensitivity

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that sun sensitivity is another highly common symptom of lupus.

21. Confusion and memory loss

Mayo Clinic notes that one of the major symptoms in women is confusion and memory loss. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing confusion, disorientation, or memory loss in a substantial way. These mental disturbances can be similar to the “fibro fog” many fibromyalgia patients experience. And, since 90% of lupus patients report fatigue, this lupus symptom is likely connected to the lack of rest.

22. Dizziness

Lupus’ effects on the central nervous system can also cause the confusion, memory loss, and fatigue associated with lupus. Another symptom to be aware of is dizziness, the Lupus Research Alliance advises.

23. Headaches

Another common symptom of lupus is headaches. However, fibromyalgia or even chronic stress also share this symptom. As with these other shared characteristics, your doctor will look at the complete picture of your symptoms before making a lupus diagnosis.

25 Lupus Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore |

24. Other blood disorders

In addition to anemia, some people with lupus may experience other blood disorders, as WomenToWomen explains.These include:

  • Leukopenia, a low white blood cell count
  • Lymphopenia, a low lever of specific white blood cells
  • Thrombocytopenia, a low platelet count
  • Otherwise abnormal blood clotting

25. Seizures

While this is one of the more serious lupus symptoms in women, it is one to watch for. And to take action on. If you’re experiencing seizures, along with any number of these other symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately.


How is lupus diagnosed?

Getting a lupus diagnosis can be complicated, as lupus symptoms are similar to symptoms of other conditions. It’s because of this that many call lupus the “great imitator.” When taken together and combined with a complete medical history and physical examination, however, the symptoms of lupus can lead to a quick diagnosis and management of this disease.


While there is no cure for lupus yet, there are treatments that are usually successful. If left untreated, lupus can become very serious – even life-threatening.

25 Lupus Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore |

Typically, your doctor can treat your symptoms through a combination of medications and careful lifestyle choices.

Medications used to treat lupus may include immunosuppressants or antimalarials (drugs traditionally used to treat malaria). Corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help control inflammation and pain.

Additionally, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of rest can help control lupus. Avoiding triggers is also very key, so people with lupus shouldn’t smoke. Controlling exposure to UV light is also important, so wearing hats, long sleeves, and long pants, using plenty of sunscreen, and limiting time outdoors during the day will likely aid in controlling your symptoms.

Certain supplements might also be beneficial for people with lupus. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), fish oil, and vitamin D might all have positive effects, so anyone suffering from lupus should talk to a doctor about potentially starting these supplements.

Get help 

Want to read more about lupus? Check out our other posts on the subject:

Finally, do you or someone you love have lupus? If you’re suffering from some or all of these symptoms, contact one of our pain doctors today to see if you’re suffering from lupus. 

Find Your Pain Doctor


Since this post helped so many people, since original publication we’ve added more symptoms and information about lupus.


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By | 2017-09-27T13:54:08-07:00 September 26th, 2017|Tags: , |37 Comments

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Pain Doctor
Pain Doctor was created with one mission in mind: help and educate people about their pain conditions, treatment options and find a doctor who can help end their pain issues.


  1. Avatar
    Brenda Schultz June 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    How do you test for lupus

  2. Avatar
    Marije October 10, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I have lupus, 24 years diagnosed.
    Almost All above are sympthoms that i have.
    It all sucks very hard. Especially the prednison and joint pain.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor October 11, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Marije — Thanks for stopping by the blog. Lupus is hard, especially if you’ve been dealing with it for 24 years! We’ve written some other posts about lupus that may be of help: We also recommend finding a specialized pain doctor who can help you find relief: We’re keeping you in our thoughts.

  3. Avatar
    Andromachi March 9, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I have diagnosed lupus since 1996……………

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      So sorry to hear that Andromachi. Wishing you much luck in your management of this condition.

  4. Avatar
    Chris March 9, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I would just like to say that men get lupus to I am one of them and men suffer from all of these symptoms as well .It’s not just women yet all these articles always make it out to be a womens problem. But just saying not offended or anything. Thanks for good info as always

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Hi Chris, that’s a really great point! Since it primarily affects women, we do tend to write about those specific experiences, but you’re absolutely correct that many men suffer from lupus and its symptoms as well. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  5. Avatar
    Tladi March 9, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    I am a 33 year old male. I was diagnosed in 2014. Before i was diagnosed for almost my entire life i have been treating Epilepsy with Degranol 200mg. In 2014 i started getting a rash on my face and i took it to the dermatologist and they also couldn’t diagnose me instead they alluded that it can be SLE. And they offered me a 2 month long prednisone prescription. And never advised that i should follow up when the prednisone is done because it might come back. After the Prednisone was done i took immunization cause i was about to take a work related trip to another country. When i was there i started loosing apetite and the joints became stiff. I thought maybe it’s because it’s a new environment and i came back and things started to become worse i couldn’t eat nothing and i was always tired. I was admitted for 5 days and the doctor diagnosed Hepatitis B and told me it will get better on its own i just need to eat healthy. After 3 weeks i was not getting better and the breathing was scarry i visited the doctor again which prompted him to refer me to hospital for further testing. Then after all the test the doctor said after extensive consultation with his colleagues they believe it is SLE. Then i remembered the dermatologist’s diagnosed it but they were not certain and never explained what it is cause i thought after the rash disappeared when taking prednisone i was O for Ok. It is hard for a male not to be able to do manly work and when you explain to people they say ” You have been lazy all your life we know you”. But as i have explained i have been treating Epilepsy for almost my entire life taking medication is not a problem. The problem is the cost because i am on immuran and methotraxate.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      Hi there — we are so sorry to hear that you’ve been suffering with this condition, along with other gender-based accusations because of it. Sending support your way.

  6. Avatar
    Henry June 6, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    I to have Lupas nd it’s tough I have had since I was 20 some nd have had problems a list a mile long, jobs I’ve had to let go of many many labels tied to me. Now having Dr. Disputes with VA dr.s very hard to deal with. Being seen for depression ect, Its tough !!!!!!

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor June 12, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      So sorry to hear about your struggles with lupus Henry. It is such a difficult condition to deal with. Wishing you the best.

  7. Avatar
    Bee June 7, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Hello everyone,
    Pain Doctor, I appreciate you and your entire staff for putting this site together. My name is Bee and I was diagnosed with SLE about a year ago. It’s still not under control. Pain everywhere, everyday! Taking my meds and pain killers – none of which I feel are working all that well.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor June 12, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Bee — thanks for your comment! We are so sorry to hear about your pain and wish you the best in your treatment. If you need to find another doctor, you can do so in our map search: Hope that helps!

  8. Avatar
    steve July 31, 2017 at 5:53 am

    Hi Everyone , I was diagnosed with SLE since 1992 at the age of 37 ,never smoked and none drinker , Lupus mainly effected my lungs , I had fluid in my heart sack drained , 25 years on . blockages in my arteries and had to have 4 bypass open heart operation . amazingly I am the only one of 6 siblings to have problems with heart due to SLE , since operation in April I have been fighting blood clot in lung and now 4 nodules sprouted in one lung one that were not there 2 months ago , be very weary of chest pains . do not ignore it like I did for long periods . cheers . steve

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor July 31, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Hi Steve — We are so sorry to hear about the pain you’ve experienced and thank you for your advice to other readers!

    • Avatar
      Gina McIver January 29, 2019 at 12:17 am

      My name is Gina, and I’m having a hell of a time over here. I was diagnosed with discoid lupus 9 months ago. Since then my life has become a painful exhausting shit show. About ten years ago I started having severe sensitivity to the sun. Bad burns, sores, peeling etc.. About 4 years ago I started developing scaly spots in my ears. The lesions appeared on my arms and scalp. I was misdiagnosed time and time again when I developed a lesion on my face and decided go to a plastic surgeon to have it removed. After sending it to pathology, It came back as discoid lupus. Soon after the joint pain started. I’ve always had stiff joints but this was different. They were stiff and sore. I contacted my GP and explained what was happening and she told me needed to follow up with a rheumatologist. First of all are there like 10 of these specialist in this whole country? In the meantime I had my blood work done. ANA came back negative. So frustrating. This is when it became depressing. I wasn’t sleeping because of the pain and when I did sleep I wanted to sleep all day long. I NEVER felt rested. I decided I couldn’t live this way and went from doctor to doctor explaining the pain, and fatigue but my blood work was “normal” so nobody help me.I was broken. This page is cutting me off so long story short I was finally helped by a great doctor and because of opiate crisis, the DPR is investigating pain management practices. All gone. Back to square one. Unbelievable

  9. Avatar
    Lori White February 1, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I have always had normal blood work
    Im tha 5% that has negative cbcs
    I have many of the S & S my protein in my urine was at the high end
    Fatigued all the time
    Sweating 24/7 Aroma is like Metal
    I have pericardial edemia mild
    Right lower medial lobe small amount Collasped non specific?
    Hair loss over 2 years gobs of it
    Edema hands ft eyes with pain
    Lymph Nodes acting up getting a Biopsy
    Calcium Forming on my Thyroid?
    All the S & S but no answer based on my CBC’s ?

  10. Avatar
    Michele March 22, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I am 43 yrs old and have had a a lot of problems, I was anemic in my early 20’s, I also have alopecia areta since 19yrs old. I have Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism and had thyroid burned out by radiation in 2010. For the past 15 years I have had horrible back and leg pain(knees) always kinda joked that I would be in a wheelchair by age 50. But this last year is awful, I feel like I’m 80yrs old some days I can hardly move, so much pain, now Ive been having chest pains, had stress test (chemically) cause of my knees can’t do treadmill. They said shoes no blockage, I do feel it worse when I take a deep’s kinda towards the top of my heart towards the middle of my chest but not quite…I’m tired of going back to dr, I think he thinks I’m a hypochondriac. I match a lot of the signs but I don’t have a fever?? Do you have to have a fever to have lupus? I have woke up with some major sweats, I do have a redness on my face recently but it actually looks like a butterfly on my left cheek, not just on my nose. If I sit to long I can hardly get up, if I sleep to long I can barely walk on morning, I’m so tired, and everything hurts, is there any help at all you can give me? Oh one more thing, like 7years ago a nurse practitioner did tell me she tested me for lupus and I didn’t have it. That’s before I knew what lupus was and was just at the dr for being so sore. But I remember her saying that. Just was wondering about the fever thing and any help would be appreciated!!

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 26, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Hi Michele — Lupus is a complicated condition that presents differently in different people. You may not have all of the symptoms mentioned here and still be suffering from lupus. You may want to see a pain specialist who is skilled at diagnosing this condition. We recommend reaching out to a doctor in your area: or using the tips here to find one near you

  11. Avatar
    Sam steven July 3, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Indeed a great article! In my case, there were no symptoms of lupus, apart from the joint pain in my wrist which created a kind of discomfort. My doctor advised me for a blood test and it all started. I still remember the days of when I hardly could keep my eyes open and my joints would never support me and ache all the time. There was always a feeling of tiredness. All the basic functions were kind of big obstacles and tasks for me. I started my treatment in full swing and results were seen after a few months. Reading articles about your medical condition also boosts your confidence and helps you understand the required treatment, causes, symptoms, diagnosis for deeply. I read a lot of articles like from Everydayhealth in order to understand my illness. I would also recommend avoiding nerve-wracking situations if you can and giving very close consideration to your body. Pushing yourself too hard can lead to much more serious side effects.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor July 9, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story Sam!

  12. Avatar
    Deanna Sellers July 15, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    I have systemic lupus and i have been having a reoccurring rash near my vagina that itches and oozes & now my inner ear is draining & has blood & i can’t hear. What would be the reason for this

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor July 16, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      Hi Deanna — We highly recommend reaching out to your doctor immediately about these new symptoms. We’re unable to answer exact questions on the blog.

  13. Avatar
    Tim July 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Can you have numbness on one side of your face from Lupus

  14. Avatar
    Crystal Kile August 21, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Hell to all , hopefully all are well.
    I found out going on about 3 year’s now that I have Lupus.
    I also have no thyroid (removed in 2008)
    I have RA, MCTD, Addison’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon, severe anxiety, insomnia, (use C-pap). I was fired from my job last year 08/09/2017. After my FMLA ran out, so I have been without health insurance and prescription coverage, and I can’t afford to go see all my Drs. So I’m just seeing my GP and Pain clinic Dr.
    Hopefully we get my disability by the end of the year, I did get 2 of my medications for free through the pharmaceutical company and I 3 of them at Walmart on the 90 day supply for$10.00 , and I also get 7 more of my medications at Kroger using the GoodRX card.
    But long story short, is anyone else out there having a hard time?
    I haven’t been able to get my Lupus medications because they are so expensive, and I can’t afford to see the RA Dr. Every 4 weeks and get blood work done.
    I also haven’t been able to see my pulmonary doctor either….
    I really hope that my body can hold up until I get my disability…. I’m on my own, my husband passed away 18 years ago, we were only married for 3 weeks, so I wasn’t able to draw his SS.
    Anyone out there that is in the same boat I am?

  15. Avatar
    Tari August 25, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    I am unable to see my doctor until 9-4. Can anyone tell me if these results are a definite diagnosis of Lupus? Also, what determines the type of Lupus?
    Thank you in advance for any information.

  16. Avatar
    Fieroza September 19, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Hi im a 40 yr old female living with lupus .my dad also been living with lupus for over 30yrs and my brother has lupus.i have most of the above symptoms the pain is horrible and fatigue makes me scared

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 24, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Hi there — Thank you for sharing your story here and we are so sorry to hear about your struggles with lupus. It is such a difficult condition to deal with. Wishing you the best.

  17. Avatar
    Kathy October 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    I am 69 year’s and diagnosed 8 year’s ago. I have been extremely sick since a child. My RA and Nuerologist said have probably had since a child the SLE. That is my diagnosis. The pain is hell. Heads the same. And stress sends me to bed. I feel for everyone who has. My systems have had all my life unexplained until “the test” and the test was done 4 times. It wasn’t in my head and not seeking attention told that for year’s. Very sad. Thank you

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor October 29, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Hi Kathy — Thank you for sharing your story and we are so sorry to hear about your challenges. It is such a difficult condition to deal with. Wishing you the best.

  18. Avatar
    Daniel Marco April 5, 2019 at 3:21 am

    Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease can damage any part of the body. Thanks for share the important post about lupus symptoms.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor April 8, 2019 at 12:12 pm


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