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Lupus: Types, Symptoms, & Diagnosis

Lupus: Types, Symptoms, & Diagnosis

May. 7th, 2022

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that over 1 million Americans and at least 5 million people worldwide have lupus.1 Women make up about 90% of lupus cases, but men can also have it.2

Here are some facts about lupus, what it’s like living with lupus, and how you can get involved this month during Lupus Awareness Month.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which is when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body. Lupus causes inflammation and pain in different parts of the body.3

Anyone can develop lupus, but women ages 15-44 are most at risk. Certain racial groups, including African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and Native American are also more at risk.

Lupus can oftentimes be confused with other autoimmune diseases because they have similar symptoms. However, a distinguishing factor is that lupus is more likely to affect internal organs and skin. Lupus can also cause life-threatening health conditions, such as kidney failure and clotting.4

Types of Lupus

Here are the different types of lupus.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)SLE is the most common form of lupus, with 70% of people with lupus having this type. This type causes inflammation in certain organs, such as the kidney, or organ systems.5
  • Cutaneous lupus –About 2/3 of people with lupus will develop this type of skin disease. Cutaneous lupus can cause rashes or sores on the skin.6
  • Drug-induced lupusDrug-induced lupus occurs by taking prescription drugs and it’s more common in men. The most common medicine to cause lupus includes those that treat hypertension, irregular heart rhythm, or tuberculosis.7
  • Neonatal lupus – This is a rare condition that affects infants whose mothers have lupus, although it’s not considered true lupus. Babies born with this condition may have a rash, liver problems, or low blood counts. The symptoms will typically resolve after 6 months.8

Living with Lupus

Living with lupus can look different for every individual who has it. Some people may only experience fatigue while others will live with joint pain that affects their movements.


The symptoms of lupus vary widely. Symptoms may come on suddenly, while others occur gradually over time. Symptoms of lupus will also depend on which part of the body is being affected.

The common symptoms of lupus include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain or swelling in the joints
  • Skin lesions
  • Rash on the face across the cheeks and nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Confusion9

Body Parts Affected by Lupus

Because lupus, like other autoimmune diseases, causes the body to attack itself, it can lead to organ damage over time.

These are the most commonly affected body parts and organs.10

  • Skin. The skin is usually affected when people have lupus, which can include red rashes and the possibility of the rashes leaving scars. Sunlight can make these rashes worse.
  • Joints. Arthritis is common in those with lupus. There may be pain, swelling, or stiffness.
  • Kidneys. Lupus affects the kidneys, and it could be life-threatening depending on the case. Kidney disease doesn’t usually present any symptoms until it’s in the later stages, making it necessary to check for any kidney issues early on.
  • Heart and lungs. Inflammation of the pericardium, which is the covering of the heart, and the pleura, which covers the lungs, is common in those with lupus.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing lupus may be difficult because symptoms can be vague and similar to other health conditions. Symptoms can also flare up and then disappear for periods of time.

To make a proper diagnosis, doctors will use multiple tests.11 Doctors will typically ask about family history and symptoms, and then order lab tests.

Blood tests are used to find certain antibodies and proteins common in people with lupus, as well as blood cell counts. Doctors will also assess kidney and liver function by examining blood tests and a urinalysis. Imaging tests, such as an X-ray or echocardiogram, are used to check the lungs and heart.12

A biopsy is another test that doctors may use to diagnose lupus. A small sample of kidney tissue can help doctors determine the best form of treatment. A biopsy of the skin can also diagnose lupus that affects the skin.

How to Get Involved in Lupus Awareness Month

If you or a loved one has lupus, or you’re simply interested in raising awareness, there are numerous ways you can get involved this month.13

Here are some ideas:

  • Spread awareness. Most people don’t know what lupus is or how it affects those who have it. Do your part in learning more and spreading facts to your family and friends.
  • Fundraise. Whether you know of a fundraiser that is happening, or you want to start your own, fundraising is a great start. Team Make Your Mark is the Lupus Foundation of America’s fundraising program that funds research, education, and care services. Check out these ways to start a fundraiser.
  • Walk to End Lupus Now. These events take place across the country where people come together, share their stories, and raise awareness. Click here to find a walk near you.
  • Race to End Lupus. Sign up for a race of your choice, virtually or in person. People bike, run, swim, and more with Team Make Your Mark to raise awareness. Click here to learn more.
  • Donate. If you simply want to donate, click here.

Saber Healthcare Raises Awareness About Lupus

Millions of people around the world are affected by lupus and its symptoms. Saber Healthcare is proud to raise awareness about this autoimmune disease and ways you can help those who have it.

Saber Healthcare provides skilled nursing and rehabilitation services to more than 115 buildings across the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Delaware, and Florida. To learn more about our company and the services we provide, click here.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.

  1. “Lupus facts and statistics.” Lupus Foundation of America, Accessed April 27th, 2022.
  2. “Lupus.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. February 17th, 2022. Accessed April 27th, 2022.,(15%E2%80%9344%20years).
  3. “What is lupus?” Lupus Foundation of America, Accessed April 27th, 2022.
  4. Bocco, Diana. “The Different Between Lupus and RA.” Healthline Media, November 13th, 2018. Accessed April 28th, 2022.
  5. “What is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)?” Lupus Foundation of America, Accessed April 28th, 2022.
  6. “What is cutaneous lupus?” Lupus Foundation of America, Accessed April 28th, 2022.
  7. “What is drug-induced lupus?” Lupus Foundation of America, Accessed April 28th, 2022.
  8. “What is neonatal lupus?” Lupus Foundation of America, April 28th, 2022.
  9. “Lupus.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. January 27th, 2021. Accessed April 27th, 2022.
  10. “Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus).” Cleveland Clinic, April 19th, 2021. Accessed April 27th, 2022.
  11. Dunkin, Mary. “How Is Lupus Diagnosed?” WebMD, October 31st, 2021. Accessed April 27th, 2022.
  12. “Lupus.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. January 27th, 2021. Accessed April 28th, 2022.,findings%20leads%20to%20the%20diagnosis.
  13. “Ways To Get Involved.” Lupus Foundation of America, Accessed April 27th, 2022.