Symptoms of Lupus may be a hard thing to track. Although the symptoms hit you hard, it’s often hard to identify the symptoms of Lupus as they mirror so many other diseases. It also takes years to develop the antibodies in your blood to differentiate the disease.
Recently, I was talking to my rheumatologist and we were discussing how Lupus patients have had cumulative triggers years before the diagnosis. She told me that it plays out differently for every patient.
In retrospect, I too had many years of unexplained symptoms prior to my diagnosis.
I thought about the typical symptoms of Lupus that the American College of Rheumatology. I felt that they were so general. They can be present for so many other conditions. Having 4 out of 11 symptoms listed seem so inaccurate, to say the least.
Symptoms of Lupus that are commonly missed:
- Headaches – pressure and frequent headaches years before diagnosis may signify an underlying inflammatory process causing tension in the central nervous system to cause the pain.
- Muscle Weakness and Fatigue – more than general fatigue, after exercise, you feel weaker than stronger. Somehow or another, unlike what it’s “supposed” to do, improve energy and mood, it drains you.
- Sun Fatigue – Every time you go out in the sun, you feel drained and sapped of energy. No visible rashes, but a noticeable fatigue after exposure.
- Digestive Problems – Constipation and Diarrhea with bloating and discomfort.
- Sensitivity to Carbohydrates, Especially Gluten – you are not one to eat a whole loaf of bread and be fine, (as was my twin sister). Just a slice will bloat me up and give me knots in my tummy and cause water retention.
- You are picky with foods – so you end up eating lots of processed foods with the lack of diversity resulting in a narrow range of foods ultimately causing malnutrition.
- Most importantly, you are as sensitive to stress as they come – you are a type A or have lots of changes and/or stressors in your life that you don’t even recognize as stress such as grad school, toxic relationships, or moving.
I spend a lot of time talking to my patients. I have known that while most of us can generally handle most of what life throws at us when we have a cumulative effect of the less than optimal life situations over time. We can do significant damage enough to cause a disease.
However, an important thing to remember is that in most cases, such circumstances are completely under your control. You really can do something about it.
If you’re reading this and have not been officially diagnosed, I want to let you know it’s still not too late. You can change things around. For those of you who have been diagnosed and are going through some challenges with symptoms, please be encouraged in knowing that Lupus is a controllable disease. You just need to learn to dance with it.