Bear in mind that no lupus checklist could ever be a substitute for sound medical advice. However, the American College of Rheumatology has established a list of symptoms that are common in people with lupus – in part, this list is what sets lupus apart from other autoimmune diseases and helps doctors diagnose and treat the disease more effectively. A patient that displays any four of the symptoms on the ACR’s list is considered positive for lupus.
Autoimmune diseases are a specific type of illness in which the body’s immune system misidentifies healthy tissue as an invading foreign microorganism (an “antigen”) and begins to attack and destroy it. Autoimmune diseases are classified according to the area that suffers the worst attacks; multiple sclerosis patients, for example, suffer symptoms resulting from immune cell attacks to the Central Nervous system, whereas patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis experience degenerative damage to the joints.
Most often, when people say “lupus,” what they mean is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – an autoimmune disease that causes widespread immune cell attacks throughout the body. Autoimmune diseases of every type will include at least one lupus symptom; checklist questions for these diseases might, for this reason, look somewhat similar. However, lupus goes through flares and periods of remission, and with each flare, a different part of the body might suffer damage. Doctors are unlikely to diagnose lupus in a patient with tissue damage to one particular area even if tests show the patient also suffers more than one lupus symptom – checklist questions for lupus must reflect a variety of symptoms in order to rule out other autoimmune disorders.
A Simple Lupus Symptoms Checklist
Again, the typical lupus patient will experience four or more of these eleven symptoms (although a patient can have fewer than four symptoms and still have lupus):
- A rash across the cheekbones and nose, possibly butterfly-shaped (malar rash)
- Areas of patchy, raised rashes (discoid rash)
- A sensitivity to bright light that makes rashes worse (photosensitivity)
- Sores in the mouth or nose that won’t heal (ulceration)
- Chronic pain in the joints that does not result from injury (arthritis)
- Inflammation in the lining around the lungs or heart (serositis)
- Protein or dead cells in the urine (a sign of kidney disease)
- Seizures and/ or mental disorders (neurological disorders)
- Low red, white or platelet cell counts (blood disorder)
- Presence of abnormal immune system antibodies (immunologic disorder)
- Presence of antibodies that attack cell tissue (anti-nuclear antibodies/ ANA)
People with several of these symptoms should check with a doctor immediately; if allowed to progress, lupus can damage major organs and the nervous, circulatory, skeletal and other systems of the body. It extreme cases, untreated lupus is fatal. A specialist in autoimmune disorders can properly diagnose lupus, and create a specific treatment plan to control disease symptoms.