Identifying Lupus


Lupus is a common disease that is difficult to diagnose. Each case is unique and someone with lupus could show a number of symptoms that can be associated with other common illnesses and different in many ways than the symptoms of other lupus sufferers.

Occasionally, lupus will exhibit symptoms that are skin related. Lupus can cause a butterfly rash to develop on the face and/or skin lesions.

Development of a Butterfly Rash or Malar Rash is the most distinctive symptom of lupus and is an indicator that you should consult with a medically-trained professional.

What is a Butterfly Rash?

A Malar Rash, commonly known as a butterfly rash, is a rash that develops across the cheekbones and across the bridge of the nose, making a distinctive pattern that appears very much like the wings and body of a butterfly. The rash is generally pink, red or purple and can be flat or raised.

The butterfly rash is usually not painful and is often ignored because of the lack of pain, but it should be examined immediately as it is a prime indicator of the presence of lupus.

Symptoms of Lupus

Symptoms of lupus can develop rapidly or progress over time. The type of symptoms that appear depend on what parts of the lupus is affecting. Common symptoms include:

  • Butterfly shaped rash
  • Skin lesions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or due to stress

Any number of these symptoms may be present. It is important to have a professional examination for lupus and other, possible conditions if a butterfly rash develops for unknown reasons.

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of your body like joints, kidneys, the brain, heart, or skin, lungs and blood cells. It occurs when the immune system begins to attack organs and tissues of the body, for reasons that are poorly understood. There are several forms of lupus. Some involve multiple organs, and some can involve only skin. Having lupus of the skin does not necessarily mean you will develop lupus in other organs.

Identifying Lupus

It takes multiple tests to diagnose lupus. A medical professional will recommend urine and blood tests, imaging tests and/or a biopsy.

Urine and blood tests will test for the following:

Antinuclear antibody (ANA) tests will test for an activated immune system. Those who test positive may have lupus and medical professionals may choose to run more tests on the antibodies.

A complete blood count will check for anemia, which is common for those who have lupus.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate is a blood test which measures how quickly red blood cells settle at the bottom of a test tube. Faster rates are an indication of disease, like lupus.

Kidney and liver assessments can provide insight into how the organs are functioning. The kidney and liver are often affected by lupus.

A urinalysis will check for increased protein and red blood cell levels, which are indicators of lupus.

Chest X-Rays can check for inflammation and liquid in the lungs. Shadows in the images can suggest that these symptoms are present.

An Echocardiogram will test for any lupus-related abnormalities in the heart.

Biopsies of the kidneys can show if lupus is present in the body and if it is affecting the kidneys, which is common. Biopsies of skin lesions can also be done, to test for lupus diseases involving the skin.

Treatment of Lupus

While lupus cannot be cured, there are ways to decrease the symptoms of the disease. A medical professional can help determine which medication may be most effective based on your symptoms. The following are common medications for lupus:

Antimalarial drugs help to control symptoms of lupus.

Corticosteroids reduce the swelling caused by lupus.

Immunosuppressants reduce the symptoms of lupus by suppressing the immune system.

Lupus can be difficult to diagnose. However, the appearance of a butterfly rash is the most distinct symptom of lupus and should be examined by a medical-professional. To schedule an appointment, call the Skin & Cancer Center of Scottsdale today at (480) 596-1110.

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