Joint Pain? It Could Be Lupus

Lupus is a chronic disease that’s marked by widespread inflammation due to an overactive immune system. 

A healthy immune system attacks pathogens and uses inflammation to increase circulation to an injured area during the repair process. When your immune system is overactive, it attacks healthy tissue, too, including joints.

Kimberly Bolling, MD, a caring and skilled internist, treats both lupus and arthritis at her Bowie, Maryland, office. Getting a precise and accurate diagnosis is the first step toward treating and managing your joint pain.

Though lupus can’t be cured, managing your disease can help you avoid complications, including early death. Thanks to advances in care, only 10-15% of lupus sufferers die earlier than normal from complications of the disease. 

Is your joint pain, swelling, and stiffness related to lupus, rather than arthritis? The following questions help you identify the two conditions.

Do your muscles ache, too?

If you’re in the early stages of lupus, you may only notice tired, achy joints, particularly in your extremities, such as your arms, fingers, lower legs, and toes. Up to half of people with lupus named joint pain as their very first symptom. 

Lupus usually affects joints on either side, such as both knees or both ankles.

Arthritis doesn’t usually cause muscle pain, however. The inflammation of lupus can weaken muscle tissue. If you’re experiencing muscle pain or weakness along with joint pain, you could have lupus. 

Are you a woman aged 15-44? 

Lupus tends to strike women during their reproductive years, when their estrogen levels are high. Women make up the majority of lupus patients. In fact, 9 of 10 people with lupus are female.

Are you African-American or of another non-White race?

Although anyone can develop lupus, Caucasians are less likely to develop it than are other ethnic groups. At-risk populations include:

Researchers aren’t yet sure how much genes influence your risk for lupus, and how much other factors — such as environmental stressors and lifestyle — come into play.

Do you have a range of other symptoms?

As lupus progresses, inflammation may begin to affect all of your other organ systems and tissues, too. Other common symptoms include:

Lupus can also cause anemia, which is a lack of red blood cells that carry oxygen to nourish your organs and tissues. Anemia may make you feel fatigued. Lupus may also cause your blood to clot, which can lead to complications such as miscarriages, heart attacks, and stroke.

Do you have a butterfly rash on your face?

The classic sign of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash that extends over your nose and covers part of both cheeks. Contact us immediately if you develop a butterfly-shaped rash. 

If you have joint pain — whether or not you suspect it may be related to lupus — get a diagnosis and customized treatment by calling our Bowie, Maryland, office today at 301-352-0090. You can also request an appointment online or send a message to Dr. Bolling and the team here on our website.

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