Lupus is an autoimmune disease that may impact any organ in your body. Early signs include a butterfly-shaped skin rash on the face, fatigue, hair loss, and pulmonary and kidney problems.

Symptoms of lupus typically start in early adulthood between ages 15-44. However, early signs and symptoms may be hard to detect because they’re similar to those of other conditions.

Lupus symptoms vary in severity and affect everyone differently.

Flare-ups are when symptoms get worse, while remission is when they improve for a period of time.

Keep reading to learn more about the early signs and symptoms of lupus.

Low grade fever for no apparent reason is an early sign of lupus.

Your fever may hover somewhere between 98.5˚F (36.9˚C) and 101˚F (38.3˚C), so you might not think to see a doctor. People with lupus may experience this type of fever off and on.

A low grade fever could be a symptom of inflammation, infection, or imminent flare-up. If you have recurrent, low grade fevers, make an appointment with a doctor.

Hair loss such as thinning hair and bald spots on the scalp are common symptoms of lupus.

It may be caused by taking certain medications, infection, or inflammation of the skin and scalp. You may lose hair by the clump. However, hair typically thins out more slowly.

Lupus treatment usually results in renewed hair growth. But hair loss in those areas may be permanent if you develop lesions on your scalp.

One of the most visible symptoms of lupus is a butterfly-shaped (malar) rash that appears over the bridge of the nose and on both cheeks. It affects 1 in 2 people with lupus and may occur suddenly or appear after exposure to sunlight, according to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA).

Other early signs of lupus that may affect your skin include:

You may also experience discoloration in the fingers and toes.

People with lupus can develop a kidney inflammation called nephritis. Inflammation makes it harder for your kidneys to filter toxins and waste from the blood.

According to the LFA, lupus nephritis typically affects people ages 20-40 and starts within 5 years of initial lupus symptoms. However, it affects children as well and is often severe.

Symptoms include:

It’s important to monitor your kidney function after diagnosis. Untreated lupus nephritis can lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD).

Up to 90% of people with lupus experience some level of fatigue. Although an afternoon nap does the trick for some people, sleeping too much during the day can lead to insomnia at night.

Speak with a doctor if you’re living with fatigue that interrupts your everyday life. Some causes of fatigue can be treated.

Lupus may cause pleurisy, which is inflammation of the pleura. This is the tissue that protects and cushions your lungs.

According to the LFA, the most common symptom is severe, sharp chest pain when you:

  • breathe
  • laugh
  • cough
  • sneeze

Inflammation may cause pain, stiffness, and visible swelling in your joints, particularly in the morning. It may be mild at first and gradually become more obvious.

According to the LFA, this may cause:

Like other symptoms of lupus, joint problems can flare up and then go away.

Speak with a doctor about your painful, swollen joints. They’ll be able to develop a proper treatment plan for you.

Some people with lupus experience occasional heartburn, acid reflux, or other gastrointestinal problems.

Some ways to help manage and prevent symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn include:

  • over-the-counter antacids
  • eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • avoiding acidic drinks, such as coffee
  • elevating the head of your bed when you sleep

If symptoms continue, see a doctor to rule out other conditions.

People with lupus are at a higher risk of developing thyroid disease.

The thyroid helps control your metabolism. A poorly functioning thyroid may affect vital organs like your brain and heart, and it could lead to symptoms like:

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid is underactive, while hyperthyroidism is caused by an overactive thyroid.

Dry mouth and gritty, dry eyes are early signs of lupus.

Some people with lupus may develop Sjögren’s, which is an autoimmune disorder. This condition causes the glands responsible for tears and saliva to malfunction, and lymphocytes can accumulate in the glands.

In some cases, lupus and Sjögren’s may also cause vaginal dryness.

Other symptoms of lupus may include:

What are the early signs of lupus in females?

Approximately 9 out of 10 people affected by lupus are female. Early signs of lupus in females may include:

  • fatigue
  • hair loss
  • sensitivity to sunlight
  • unexplained fever
  • joint pain and swelling

Early signs and symptoms of lupus vary for each person and may affect different parts of the body. While new symptoms can appear, others often disappear.

It’s important to speak with a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. They’ll be able to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.