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Lupus has various symptoms that come and go and mimic those of other diseases, making it difficult to identify.

What is lupus and what are the symptoms?

“Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. In other words, your body attacks itself,” says Sheila Albuquerque, M.D., a board-certified physician specializing in Rheumatology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “For some, it’s a mild disease with symptoms limited to skin rashes or hair loss. For others, however, lupus can be disfiguring, disablin​g and life-threatening.”

Dr. Albuquerque says the disease is not contagious and the majority of symptoms are due to inflammation.

“One tell-tale sign is a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose,” she says. “Other common skin problems include sensitivity to the sun with flaky, red spots or a scaly, purple rash appearing on various parts of your body. Some people also develop mouth sores. Treatment aims to reduce inflammation, usually through medications.”

Dr. Albuquerque says lupus can also cause serious internal problems.

“A patient may experience severe joint and muscle pain, low-grade fever or ongoing fatigue,” she says. “Symptoms may vanish, then suddenly return sometimes worse than before. In severe cases, lupus can damage the heart, lungs, kidneys and other vital organs.”

She says though anyone can get lupus, it affects women – usually between ages 15 and 45 – more often than men.

​“Because accurately identifying lupus can be challenging, it’s important to see an experienced rheumatologist. Early diagnosis and working closely with a specialist are the keys to minimizing symptoms,” advises Dr. Albuquerque.
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Sheila Albuquerque, MD

​I believe in treating patients with dignity and respect, communicating with patients and involving them in decisions about their health.