Around five million people worldwide suffer from the disease, including some famous celebrities such as singer and actress Selena Gomez, but what signs should you look out for?
It’s a chronic disease that still has no cure and has been dubbed the “silent killer,” but there are some important symptoms to look for to help doctors diagnose the hard-to-detect lupus.
In an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system becomes overactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. The condition ranges from mild to severe and can affect any part of the body, especially the skin, joints or internal organs, and often leaves even medical professionals baffled. Lupus is best treated if it is diagnosed and treated early.
If left undetected, it can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, heart and lungs. Lupus UK estimates it affects around 50,000 people in the UK alone and five million sufferers worldwide, but there are some tell-tale signs to look out for. Once lupus has been diagnosed, patients have regular blood tests to monitor the condition and may have to have regular urine tests to check if there is a problem.
Medical professional Dr Miriam Stoppard said: “Lupus symptoms vary greatly from person to person because different organs can be affected, from mild and intermittent to severe and life-threatening. There is currently no cure, but it can be controlled with medication and most people can lead active, normal lives.
“Treatment includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and immunosuppressants.” American singer Selena Gomez suffers from this disease and openly talks about her struggle. In 2017, she revealed that she had undergone a kidney transplant related to her lupus. The star was praised for explaining how her body changes when she takes medication for lupus.
During a TikTok live earlier this year, she told fans that she “retains a lot of water” when she takes the medication. She said: “I would rather be healthy and take care of myself. My medications are important and I believe they are helping me.”
13 symptoms of lupus
Symptoms of lupus can be managed with medications. According to the NHS, the main symptoms include:
- joint and muscle pain
- severe fatigue that will not go away no matter how long you stay
- a rash that usually appears after sun exposure – the rash often appears on the nose and cheeks.
You may also have:
- mouth ulcers
- at high temperatures
- hair loss
- weight loss
- swollen glands, usually in the neck, armpits, or groin
- chest or stomach pain
- changes in the color of your fingers and toes when you’re cold, anxious, or stressed
Lupus often flares up, with symptoms worsening over several weeks and sometimes longer. Then the symptoms subside. The reason why symptoms worsen or subside is unknown. Some people do not notice any difference and their symptoms are constant.
Treatments you may be given for lupus include: anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, hydroxychloroquine for fatigue, skin and joint problems, steroid tablets, injections and creams for kidney inflammation and rashes.
Immunosuppressants or biologic drugs are sometimes used to treat severe lupus. They help calm or control your body’s immune system. Although medications play an important role in managing lupus, you can help manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of them getting worse. You should:
use a high factor sunscreen (at least 50) and wear a hat in the sun—you can get prescription sunscreen if you have lupus
learn to control your pace so you don’t get too tired
try to stay active even on a bad day
Try relaxation techniques to cope with stress—stress can make symptoms worse.
inform your employer about your condition – you may be able to adjust your work schedule
seek help from family, friends and healthcare professionals
Eat a healthy, balanced diet including vitamin D and calcium.