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Lupus: The Great Imitator

Lupus is a tricky disease, masquerading as a variety of conditions. This results in an average of six years between the onset of symptoms and the time a person receives a diagnosis. We’re breaking down the basics of this mysterious condition so you can better track your symptoms.

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder. This means the immune system of a person with lupus damages the healthy tissues in their body. While a healthy immune system produces antibodies that neutralize unwanted invaders, the immune system of someone with lupus creates antibodies that try to do the same to your nerves, organs, etc. Currently, there is no known cause or cure for lupus.

What Are the Symptoms of Lupus?

People call lupus “the great imitator” because its symptoms often mimic those of other conditions, including fibromyalgia, diabetes, and Lyme disease. A person with lupus might experience changing symptoms, and the signs can come and go or vary in severity over time, making the condition difficult to diagnose. Take notes to share with your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the nose and face
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Painful joints
  • Anemia
  • Swelling in the hands, feet, or around the eyes
  • Chest pain during deep breathing
  • Photosensitivity (sensitivity to light)
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting
  • Fingers turning blue or white when cold
  • Ulcers in the mouth or nose
  • Headaches

How Do Doctors Treat Lupus?

Since lupus doesn’t have a cure, doctors recommend treatments that can reduce the severity of your symptoms, prevent damage to your organs, reduce inflammation, and control your immune system. The prescribed medicines might change throughout your life as your symptoms change. Your doctor might also recommend lifestyle changes, including eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, take note and schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They can take a look at your medical history and symptoms and refer you to a St. Luke’s Health rheumatologist if needed. Our team diagnoses and treats a variety of conditions to help you get your health back on track.


Lupus Foundation of America | Understanding Lupus
Lupus Foundation of America | What Is Lupus?
Lupus Foundation of America | Common Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus Foundation of America | Finding the Right Treatment Approach for You
Lupus Foundation of America | When Flares Happen

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