More than 60,000 people in Italy are affected by systemic lupus erythematosus, with prevalence in young women aged 15 and over. Lupus is an autoimmune pathology that causes uncontrolled activation of the immune system, resulting in chronic inflammation that can affect any organ or apparatus.
The disease is difficult to diagnose especially because of the many possible manifestations and because many of the symptoms that characterize it are common in many other diseases, but as Professor Carlo Selmi, Head of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at Humanitas and Professor at the University of Milan, explains, the presence of some symptoms at the same time must lead one to refer to a rheumatologist.
Symptoms that should not be underestimated
- Unjustified weight loss: Lupus, as an autoimmune disease, can alter metabolism and lead to unjustified weight loss.
- The presence of low-grade fever for prolonged periods and in the absence of signs of infection may also be linked to lupus.
- Chronic asthenia: Chronic and persistent fatigue is typical of lupus, especially for a reduction in hemoglobin values.
- Spontaneous haematomas: Lupus can determine a low number of white blood cells and platelets and these in particular are the basis of clotting disorders.
- One of the characteristic signs of lupus is the so-called “butterfly erythema”. Major skin rashes, especially on the face, should not be underestimated, especially if the problem manifests itself with exposure to the sun.
- Dry mouth and eyes: This symptom can occur when the disease affects the salivary and tear glands.
- Like all diseases involving the immune system, lupus also causes hyper-activation of the lymph nodes, which increase in size and can sometimes be painful.
- Hair loss: More common in women aged 15 to 50, lupus can manifest itself with the loss of hair strands without leaving scars.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon: If hands and feet in the cold first become white, then blue and then red for about 20 minutes it could be Raynaud’s phenomenon, which although it is more common with other diseases, may also suggest the presence of lupus.
- Joint pains, which occur especially in the morning (with a long-lasting stiffness upon awakening) and then become less intense during the day.
- Chest pain: Lupus can inflame the serous membranes of the lungs and heart causing pleuritis and pericarditis, resulting in chest pain (unlike that of a heart attack).
- Headache, depression and other newly onset neurological symptoms: the nervous system can also be affected by lupus, with the manifestation of several neurological symptoms, including hallucinations and forms of psychosis or ischemic stroke.
- The kidneys are the organs most frequently affected by lupus, but this generally does not affect the ability to urinate except at very advanced stages. In the most serious cases renal failure can occur with loss of large amounts of protein and the appearance of a significant swelling especially of the lower limbs in a short time.
- Recurring abortions: Blood clotting problems can also make it difficult to complete a pregnancy.