Your joints are sore or stiff
Sometimes lupus is mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because both diseases can cause joint pain and stiffness, often in the hands, wrists, and ankles. Joints symptoms are the main feature of RA but one of many, many signs of lupus, Dr. Manzi says.
“When you wake up in the morning, you feel like the Tin Man—very stiff, can’t get moving,” and after you’ve been sitting for a while, “the joints almost feel like they’ve got gel in them,” she says.
You have swelling
Swollen lymph nodes? Puffiness around your eyes? These can be a sign of lupus, too. “Some people will present with swelling in the legs, and the very first thing they’re getting is kidney failure,” Dr. Manzi says.
You’re losing your hair
Hair loss with lupus can be patchy, leaving little bald spots on your head. Or, it can be diffuse, causing thinning all over the scalp. Sometimes a rash develops in a balding area.
Your finger or toes blanch and go numb
As many as a third of people with lupus experience Raynaud’s, a syndrome that affects the blood vessels, the National Resource Center on Lupus says. When you have Raynaud’s, the vessels that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation, especially when you’re cold or under stress. You’ll may have Raynaud’s if your fingers or toes (or both) go numb and turn blue or white.
You’re totally wiped out
is a common complaint of people with lupus. It is not the kind of exhaustion you get after exercising or playing a sport. It’s this “hit-a-wall, can’t-function kind of fatigue,” as Dr. Manzi describes it.
Fatigue isn’t specific to lupus but may provide another clue if someone has other lupus symptoms. “In a rheumatologist’s mind, that’s just one more confirmation that there’s inflammation going on,” Dr. Goldfien says.