Lupus can be a difficult disease for a physician or specialist to diagnose. In fact, it’s often called “the great imitator” as its symptoms are similar to those that occur with other illnesses.
Lupus is a type of chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when a body’s immune system attacks different tissues and organs such as joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
Symptoms are wide-ranging. They can develop quickly or over an extended period of time. They may be severe or barely noticeable. Symptoms can even come and go or disappear completely only to return at a later time. Different symptoms may appear at different times during the progression of the disease.
So how do you know if you should get checked for lupus?
One of the most prominent symptoms of lupus is a facial rash, which is often said to appear as though the wings of a butterfly are unfolded across both checks. According to Mayo Clinic, this occurs in many, but not all cases of lupus.
There are several other symptoms that occur in lupus patients. They will vary depending on the tissues or organs that are being affected by the disease.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, the common signs and symptoms for lupus are:
• Extreme fatigue
• Painful or swollen joints
• Swelling in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
• Pain in chest on deep breathing
• Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
• Sun- or light-sensitivity
• Hair loss
• Abnormal blood clotting
• Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold
• Mouth or nose ulcers
If you have experienced any or a combination of the above symptoms for an extended period of time or have symptoms that reappear, it could be time to schedule an appointment with a physician.
A physician will speak to you about your symptoms, your medical and family history and could order laboratory tests. Depending on the physician’s findings, they may be able to diagnosis lupus or they could make a referral to a rheumatologist.