SLE symptoms may develop slowly over months or years, or they may appear suddenly. Symptoms tend to vary among patients and different symptoms can occur at different times.
Common symptoms of SLE include:
- Joint pain and stiffness, which is often accompanied by swelling and redness. The joints most affected are fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles.
- Skin rash, including the characteristic “butterfly rash” on the face that extends over the bridge of the nose and cheeks. Rash can also appear on other parts of the face or other skin areas that are exposed to sun.
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite, nausea, and weight loss
- Chest pain
- Menstrual irregularities
- Dry eyes
- Mouth ulcers
- Brittle hair or hair loss
- Painful, pale or purple fingers or toes triggered by cold or stress (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
- Anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating
|Click the icon to see an image of systemic lupus erythematosus.|
|Click the icon to see an image of Raynaud's phenomenon.|
Conditions with Similar Symptoms
A number of conditions overlap with SLE:
- Scleroderma: Hardening of the skin caused by overproduction of collagen
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Inflammation of the lining of the joints
- Sjögren syndrome: Characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth
- Mixed connective tissue disorder: Similar to SLE, but milder
- Myositis: Inflammation and degeneration of muscle tissues
- Rosacea: Flushed face with pus-filled blisters
- Seborrheic dermatitis: Sores on lips and nose
- Lichen planus: Swollen rash that itches, typically on scalp, arms, legs, or in the mouth
- Dermatomyositis: Bluish-red skin eruptions on face and upper body
- Lyme disease: Bulls-eye rash, joint inflammation, and flu-like symptoms
Review Date: 02/18/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.