Your hair is coming out in clumps
While lupus can affect either gender, 90 percent of all cases diagnosed are in women between the ages of 15 and 44. And one of the most devastating symptoms of lupus is the loss of your beautiful locks, Lee says. You may notice your hair thinning and losing significant volume over a short period of time.
Your hands are freezing, even in the summer
Many women have cold hands and feet, as many men can attest. (“Did you just marry me because you wanted a bed warmer?”) But if your fingers or toes often get extremely cold, turn blue, or feel numb it could be Raynaud’s syndrome. This syndrome is an illness that affects circulation in the extremities and can be a sign of lupus, Dr. Lee says.
You feel like you’ve got arthritis but you’re only 30
Painful, swollen joints aren’t supposed to be a problem until you’re elderly, right? Not so fast, Dr. Lee says. Unfortunately many young lupus patients experience arthritis-like symptoms in their joints, especially in their legs, with the pain being the worst in the morning and getting better as the day goes on.
You have chest pain
“Heart attack!” is everyone’s first (panicked) thought when having chest pain but if your doc clears you for heart disease, lupus may be the cause. The autoimmune disease can cause swelling throughout the body, including in the sacs surrounding the heart and lungs, causing consistent, dull chest pain, Dr. Lee explains. If it’s your lungs that are primarily affected you may also experience shortness of breath.
You’re having a psychotic break
“Lupus can attack any organ in the body and that includes the brain, sometimes causing psychosis,” Lee says. “Many people come in thinking they’ve suddenly got schizophrenia or are going crazy but in reality, it’s the disease.” Neurological symptoms of lupus can include hallucinations (both visual and auditory), paranoia, confusion, moodiness, and seizures—often occurring suddenly and with no prior history of mental illness.
You’re having problems on the potty
The kidneys are one of the most common organs to be affected by lupus, which means you could feel side or back pain, have problems urinating, and retain water. Your doctor may also discover high levels of protein in your urine.
You have heartburn that just won’t quit
Gastrointestinal problems like heartburn, stomach cramps, and diarrhea are also common symptoms of lupus as the disease can cause your gut to become inflamed. Sufferers often try over-the-counter and prescription medications but find little relief from them.
You have multiple miscarriages
Lupus can cause problems with blood clotting, Lee says, and one of the saddest manifestations of this are repeated miscarriages in women. Getting pregnant isn’t a problem but staying pregnant can feel impossible. The clotting can also cause your periods to become heavy or irregular. It’s not the most common cause of infertility in women, but if you’re unable to have a baby and have some of these other symptoms, it’s worth getting tested for lupus.
You have lots of random, unexplained symptoms that don’t go away
Often called “the great masquerader,” lupus is a tricky disease as the symptoms of lupus mimic so many other illnesses. “Each person is different in how they’re affected because it depends entirely on which organ is being attacked by the immune system,” Dr. Lee explains. Worse, the disease often comes in “flares,” or periods of time where symptoms are particularly bad, interspersed with long periods where you feel fine, making you wonder if you’re just imagining things. This means that lupus is often a disease diagnosed only by the process of eliminating all other possible causes, Dr. Lee says—a process which can be extremely frustrating and disheartening for patients as they struggle to find answers. Thankfully there is a simple blood test that looks for anti-nuclear antibodies which can be a good indicator of lupus. Ultimately, however, you have to trust your body, Dr. Lee says. If you feel sick and you’re just not getting better, it’s important to get to the root cause, no matter what that is.