Early signs of systemic lupus aren't universal because symptoms manifest differently depending on which organs the disease attacks, according to Medical News Today. Many common symptoms, such as achy joints, swollen hands and feet, fever, hair loss and fatigue, are often overlooked or confused with other conditions.
Physicians may begin considering a diagnosis of lupus when a patient exhibits at least four major symptoms that don't appear to have another cause, notes the American College of Rheumatology. As an autoimmune disease, lupus causes the immune system to produce harmful proteins that attack healthy cell tissue. Each person experiences a different degree of inflammation and spreading, but patients generally suffer from weight loss, heartburn, stomach discomfort and blood clots.
Systemic lupus sufferers often develop distinct butterfly-shaped rashes, known as malar rashes, that form above the cheeks, the American College of Rheumatology states. When the disease attacks the heart or lungs, individuals may experience chest pain, while severe inflammation of the joints may lead to arthritis. Individuals can also periodically develop painful sores in the nose or mouth or show signs of anemia and kidney failure.
An attack on the central nervous system may trigger seizures, memory loss, headaches, dizziness and even behavioral changes, according to Medical News Today. Since lupus can critically impair organ functionality, individuals are more likely to suffer from other serious conditions such as cancer, miscarriage, renal disease and loss of bone tissue.