Lupus can affect almost any organ in your body. The symptoms of lupus also differ from person to person. For example, one person with lupus may have swollen knees and fever. Another person may be tired all the time or have kidney trouble. Someone else may have rashes. Over time, new symptoms can develop or some symptoms may happen less often.
Lupus symptoms also usually come and go, meaning that you don’t have them all of the time. Lupus is a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better).
- Muscle and 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Chest pain. Lupus can trigger inflammation in the lining of the lungs. This causes chest pain when breathing deeply.
- Hair loss. Patchy or bald spots are common. Hair loss could also be caused by some medicines or infection.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Memory problems. Some people with lupus report problems with forgetfulness or confusion.
- 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.
- Eye disease. You may get dry eyes, eye inflammation, and eyelid rashes.
*Content on this page is provided by the Office on Women’s Health.
- Longo, D.L., et al. (2012). Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th edition.
- Cojocaru, M., Cojocaru, I.M., Silosi, I., Vrabie, C.D. (2011). Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Maedica: A Journal of Clinical Medicine; 6(4): 330-336.
- Lee, Y.H., Woo, J.H., Choi, S.J., Ji, J.D., Song, G.G. (2010). Induction and maintenance therapy for lupus nephritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lupus; 19:703–710.