Understanding Lupus: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Team Health Cages

Close-up photo of a lupus face with a butterfly rash across her cheeks.


Lupus is a disease where your body’s defenses attack your healthy parts. It can damage your skin, joints, kidneys, heart and lungs. It makes you feel tired, your joints ache, itchy, feverish, and sensitive to sunlight. Doctors can’t make it go away, but they can help you feel better with medication and changes in your lifestyle. It’s important to see your doctor often and get help managing lupus.

In this blog, we discuss these topics:

What is Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can impact various body parts. In lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, which typically defend against infections and illnesses. This self-attack leads to inflammation and, in some cases, permanent tissue damage. The effects of lupus can be widespread, involving the skin, joints, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood cells, and brain.

People with lupus may experience periods of illness known as flares, as well as periods of wellness called remission. Lupus flares can range from mild to severe and are often unpredictable. However, with appropriate treatment, many individuals with lupus can effectively manage the disease.

What are the Causes of Lupus

The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, hormonal, and possibly immune system factors. Here are the key factors that may contribute to the development of lupus:

1. Genetic Factors

  • Family History: Having a relative with lupus or another autoimmune disease can increase the risk of developing lupus.
  • Specific Genes: Certain genes are associated with a higher risk of lupus, although no single gene causes the disease.

2. Environmental Factors

  • Sunlight: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can trigger lupus skin lesions or provoke an internal response in susceptible individuals.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as those caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, can trigger lupus or cause flares.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as certain antibiotics, blood pressure drugs, and anti-seizure medications, can trigger lupus-like symptoms (drug-induced lupus).

3. Hormonal Factors

  • Sex Hormones: Women are more likely to develop lupus than men, suggesting that estrogen and other hormones may play a role. The disease often appears or worsens during periods of increased hormone levels, such as during pregnancy or menstrual cycles.

4. Immune System Factors

  • Immune Dysfunction: Lupus involves a malfunction in the immune system, where the body cannot distinguish between foreign invaders and its own tissues, leading to an autoimmune response.

5. Other Factors

  • Stress: Physical or emotional stress can trigger lupus flares in some individuals.
  • Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of developing lupus and exacerbate symptoms.

Multifactorial Nature

It is important to note that lupus is considered multifactorial, meaning that a combination of these factors, rather than a single cause, is likely responsible for the disease. Each person’s experience with lupus can be different, depending on the interplay of these various factors.

Silhouette of a person with various body parts highlighted in different colors, representing the different areas lupus can affect.

Signs and Symptoms of Lupus

Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various body parts, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. The signs and symptoms of lupus can vary widely among individuals, and they may come and go over time. Here are some common signs and symptoms:

Fatigue: Persistent and extreme tiredness is a common symptom of lupus.

Joint pain and swelling: Lupus can cause arthritis-like symptoms, with pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, particularly in the hands, wrists, and knees.

Skin rash: One of the hallmark signs of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose. Other skin rashes, lesions, or sores may also occur.

Photosensitivity: Many people with lupus are sensitive to sunlight and may experience skin rashes or other symptoms after exposure to UV rays.

Fever: Low-grade fevers are common in lupus, particularly during disease flares.

Mouth or nose sores: Ulcers or sores may develop inside the mouth or nose.

Raynaud’s phenomenon: This condition causes fingers and toes to turn white or blue in response to cold or stress.

Chest pain: Lupus can inflame the lining of the heart or lungs, leading to chest pain that worsens with deep breathing.

Kidney problems: Lupus nephritis can cause inflammation of the kidneys, leading to symptoms such as blood in the urine, protein in the urine, or swelling in the legs.

Hair loss: Some people with lupus experience hair thinning or loss.

Neurological symptoms: These can include headaches, dizziness, seizures, and cognitive dysfunction.

Gastrointestinal issues: Lupus can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

It’s important to note that lupus can mimic other diseases, and not all people with lupus will experience all of these symptoms. Additionally, the severity of symptoms can vary widely from person to person. If you suspect you may have lupus or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Get the care you deserve. Find a top lupus specialist:

Lupus: Managing and Treating It in Daily Life 

Managing and treating lupus involves a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical care to control symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and minimize organ damage. Here are some strategies for managing lupus in daily life:


Take prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider. This may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, antimalarial drugs, immunosuppressants, and biologic therapies.

Regular medical care

Attend scheduled appointments with your rheumatologist or healthcare provider to monitor your condition, adjust medications as needed, and address any new symptoms or concerns.

Sun protection

Protect your skin from sunlight and UV radiation by wearing protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, and using broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF. Limit your exposure to direct sunlight, especially during peak hours.

Stress management

Practice stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi to help manage stress, which can trigger lupus flares.

Healthy lifestyle

Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Regular exercise can help improve strength, flexibility, and overall well-being.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your activities accordingly. Pace yourself and prioritize rest when needed. Avoid overexertion and get plenty of sleep each night.

Stay informed

Educate yourself about lupus and its symptoms, treatments, and potential complications. Be proactive in managing your health and advocate for yourself with your healthcare team.

Support network

Seek support from family, friends, support groups, or online communities for emotional support, practical advice, and coping strategies. Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can be invaluable.

Monitor symptoms

Keep track of your symptoms, medication side effects, and any changes in your condition. This information can help you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about your treatment plan.

Seek prompt medical attention

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience new or worsening symptoms, such as fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, severe fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. Early intervention can help prevent complications and improve outcomes.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine and working closely with your healthcare team, you can effectively manage lupus and lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges posed by the disease.


In conclusion, managing and treating lupus in daily life requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses medication, lifestyle changes, and regular medical care. By following a prescribed treatment plan, protecting yourself from sunlight, managing stress, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying informed, seeking support, monitoring symptoms, and seeking prompt medical attention when needed, you can effectively manage lupus and minimize its impact on your life. With dedication, support, and proactive management, you can lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges posed by lupus.


Q1. What causes lupus?

A1. A combination of genetic and environmental factors likely causes lupus. People with a genetic predisposition for lupus may develop the disease when exposed to certain environmental triggers. However, the specific cause of lupus remains unknown in most cases.

Q2. Is lupus life-threatening?

A2. Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening, depending on which parts of the body are affected. While most cases of lupus are mild and allow individuals to lead full lives with medication, it can be life-threatening in rare instances.

Q3. Is lupus very painful?

A3. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the body. People with lupus experience periods of remission between active disease flares, during which pain can be severe. Treatment often includes pain medications and immunosuppressants.

Q4. How does a person with lupus feel?

A4. Most people with lupus experience joint pain and swelling. Symptoms can vary depending on the affected body parts. For instance, skin involvement may lead to rashes, while digestive tract involvement can cause nausea and stomach discomfort.

Q5. Can lupus go away?

A5. Lupus may flare up, become inactive (quiescent), and go into remission for some individuals. This pattern can occur irregularly throughout their lives. For others, lupus remains in a chronic state of activity, with frequent flares of illness.

Don’t stop here! Visit our blog for even more health knowledge: