What are the symptoms of lupus?

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Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease that can affect the body in various ways, though the symptoms are usually not constant. Lupus most often consists of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better), and the symptoms differ from person to person.

For example, one woman with lupus may have swollen knees and fever. Another woman may be tired all the time or have kidney trouble. Someone else may have rashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new symptoms can develop over time or some symptoms may happen less often.

The following are 13 symptoms of lupus:

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1. Muscle & joint pain

You may experience pain and stiffness, with or without swelling. This affects most people with lupus. Common areas for muscle pain and swelling include the neck, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms.

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2. Fever

A fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit affects many people with lupus. The fever is often caused by inflammation or infection. Lupus medicine can help manage and prevent fever.

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3. Rashes

You may get rashes on any part of your body that is exposed to the sun, such as your face, arms, and hands. One common sign of lupus is a red, butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks.

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4. Chest pain

Lupus can trigger inflammation in the lining of the lungs. This causes chest pain when breathing deeply.

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5. Sun or light sensitivity

Most people with lupus are sensitive to light, a condition called photosensitivity. Exposure to light can cause rashes, fever, fatigue, or joint pain in some people with lupus.

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6. Kidney problems

Half of people with lupus also have kidney problems, called lupus nephritis.3 Symptoms include weight gain, swollen ankles, high blood pressure, and decreased kidney function.

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7. Mouth sores

Also called ulcers, these sores usually appear on the roof of the mouth, but can also appear in the gums, inside the cheeks, and on the lips. They may be painless, or you may have soreness or dry mouth.

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8. Prolonged or extreme fatigue

You may feel tired or exhausted even when you get enough sleep. Fatigue can also be a warning sign of a lupus flare.

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9. Anemia

Fatigue could be a sign of anemia, a condition that happens when your body does not have red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. 

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10. Memory problems

Some people with lupus report problems with forgetfulness or confusion.

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11. Blood clotting

You may have a higher risk of blood clotting. This can cause blood clots in the legs or lungs, stroke, heart attack, or repeated miscarriages.

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12. Hair loss

Patchy or bald spots are common. Hair loss could also be caused by some medicines or infection.

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13. Eye disease

You may get dry eyes, eye inflammation, and eyelid rashes.

You can learn about how to manage your lupus symptoms and prevent flares on the CDC website.

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Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.