Common Lupus Symptoms in Women
Reviewed by David Johnson, MD
Lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that affects nine times more women more than men. It happens most to women in their childbearing years or ages 14 to 45. Women with lupus have extremely difficult pregnancies. Lupus can cause life threatening complications such as kidney problems and low blood counts. Lupus is incurable.
Most Common Lupus Symptoms in Women
It seems that each woman with lupus has slightly different symptoms which can come and go at different times. But the most common lupus symptoms are:
- Arthritis-like joint pain and stiffness
- Chronic fatigue
- Fever over 100 degrees F
- Mouth sores
- Nose sores
- Thinning of hair
- “Butterfly rash” which goes across the face from the cheeks over the nose
- Red, round skin rash in other areas of the body that hurt when exposed to light
- Noticeable swelling of ankles due to fluid retention
- Extreme sensitivity to light, similar to what many people with migraines suffer
- Pleurisy, or an inability to take a deep breath without pain
- Fingers or toes turn white or purple in the cold or from undergoing a stressful event
Doctors who suspect their patients have lupus that suffer from some or all of the symptoms listed above will order a blood test. People with lupus produce distinctive antibodies in their blood. The specific test is called an antinuclear antibody or ANA test. A positive result often means the patient has lupus, but they must also show at least three other lupus symptoms in women.
Lupus patients often have unusual blood count readings in a complete cell blood count or CBC test. The patient may have a low platelet counts, low red blood cell count or a low white blood cell count.
Uncommon Lupus Symptoms in Women
Some uncommon lupus symptoms in women include problems with brain functions such as memory. This is because some women with lupus develop a tendency toward developing blood clots. These blood clots rarely go to the brain or spinal chord. Individual women with lupus may develop symptoms not listed here when they suffer a flare-up:
- Foamy urine
- Sudden weight gain
- Blood clots in the legs or lungs
- Memory loss or extreme confusion
- Unpredictable menstrual cycles, including having flow up to 15 days
- Numbness or weakness in part of the body.
Because the menstrual cycle often undergoes changes, it can be difficult for women with lupus to conceive. Women with lupus that manage to become pregnant often give birth to babies with birth defects, but giving birth to a normal baby is not impossible. It is a risk that a woman and her partner should be made aware of before she becomes pregnant.
Long-Term Lupus Symptoms in Women
Lupus can manifest in many ways years after a women is first diagnosed with the condition. Over time, even with treatment, women may develop:
- Skin prone to being bruised easily
- Thinning skin
- High blood pressure
- Thinning bones.