Lupus affects each person differently, and symptoms vary depending on the type of lupus. Most people experience episodes of disease activity (flares) followed by periods with no symptoms.

Lupus can cause a variety of symptoms. Symptoms may come and go and can range from very mild to quite severe. While some symptoms might disappear and never return, others can be more constant.

Learn more about the early symptoms, common symptoms, and possible complications of lupus.

The symptoms of lupus typically start anywhere from your teens to your early 40s. The condition is most common in females.

Early symptoms may include:

These are similar to symptoms of other conditions, so experiencing them doesn’t necessarily mean that you have lupus. But it’s important to make an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss them.

Learn more about early lupus symptoms.

Depending on the type of lupus you have, the condition might affect different organs. There are four main types of lupus:

SLE and DIL may affect several organs in your body. As a result, you may experience a wider range of symptoms with these lupus types. Cutaneous and neonatal lupus most commonly affect your skin. Neonatal lupus may also affect your heart.

Symptoms vary from person to person and in each type of lupus. In addition to the early symptoms listed above, the most common symptoms and signs include:

Lupus may cause a variety of skin rashes, including:

  • A butterfly-shaped rash on your face: This is also known as a malar rash. It appears on the bridge of your nose and spreads out over your cheeks. Exposure to sunlight may increase your risk for this rash.
  • A painless disc-shaped, red, scaly rash: This rash is typically about the size of a coin and might appear on your cheeks, nose, or ears. Once the rash fades, your skin may become discolored where the rash was. If the rash forms on your scalp, you might experience temporary or permanent hair loss.
  • Ring-shaped, scaly red patches: This type of rash often forms on body parts that are exposed to sunlight.

Learn more about the effects of lupus on your skin.

Lupus and Raynaud’s phenomenon

Some people with lupus have Raynaud’s phenomenon. If you have this condition, your fingers and toes will turn two of the following three colors when you’re exposed to cold or experiencing stress:

  • white or pale
  • red
  • blue or purple
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People with lupus may be more likely to experience photosensitivity, or sensitivity to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light. If you have lupus, exposure to sunlight may trigger certain symptoms, such as:

  • rash
  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • internal swelling

Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection may help reduce your risk for symptoms. Wearing sun-protective clothing or a wide-brimmed hat can also help.

Learn more about lupus and photosensitivity.

Fatigue is one of the common symptoms of lupus. Older research suggests that 53–80% of people with lupus experience fatigue as one of their main symptoms.

It’s unclear what causes fatigue in people with lupus, but the following factors may contribute:

As lupus progresses, inflammation can damage tissue and organs throughout your body, leading to additional symptoms.

Kidneys

Inflammation in your kidneys (lupus nephritis) can make it hard for them to filter waste and toxins from your body. Up to 50% of adults with lupus will develop kidney disease, which increases the risk for kidney failure.

Symptoms of kidney damage include:

  • swelling (edema) of your legs, hands, or eyelids
  • puffiness
  • unexplained weight gain
  • dark or foamy urine

Central nervous system

Lupus can lead to changes in your behavior if it causes inflammation in your brain or central nervous system. Inflammation in your brain or central nervous system can also affect your memory and, in some cases, cause hallucinations. It can even lead to depression.

Inflammation that occurs in your hearing nerve may result in hearing loss.

Heart

Lupus can cause inflammation in your heart, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Symptoms include chest pain and heart murmurs.

Lungs and chest

Lupus can lead to inflammation in your chest cavity and lungs. Inflammation in your chest cavity lining is known as pleuritis and can make it painful to take a deep breath. Lupus also increases your risk of developing pneumonia.

Joints

Arthritis commonly occurs in people with lupus. When you have arthritis, your joints become inflamed. This can cause swelling, pain, and a limited range of motion in the affected joints.

Lupus-related arthritis is due to the increased inflammation that lupus causes in your body.

Lupus can affect your blood and blood vessels, increasing your risk of having:

  • a low number of healthy red blood cells (anemia)
  • a low number of white blood cells (leukopenia)
  • a low number of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia)
  • inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis)
  • bleeding
  • blood clots
  • hardening of your arteries

With lupus, you’re more prone to all types of infection, including:

There’s a risk of bone tissue death (avascular necrosis) if lupus affects the blood supply to your bones. Symptoms include bone fractures and breaks, especially in your hips.

You may also develop an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Additionally, lupus can affect pregnancy, increasing the risk of complications such as high blood pressure, miscarriage, and premature delivery.

Sjögren disease

Some people with lupus develop another immune disorder called Sjögren disease, which affects your body’s moisture-producing glands. Symptoms include chronically dry eyes and dry mouth. Sjögren disease can also cause:

  • swelling in your joints and glands
  • dry skin
  • vaginal dryness
  • a dry cough

Lupus is a chronic disease with no known cure. However, there are many types of treatment to help manage your symptoms, depending on how lupus affects you.

You can discuss new and existing symptoms with your doctor. They can recommend treatments or lifestyle strategies that may help. With ongoing care, it’s possible to live a full, active life with lupus.