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Here's What Lupus Feels Like, Say Physicians

What to know about lupus, according to experts. 

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans and an average of 5 million people worldwide, according to Dr. Daniel Boyer of Farr Institute tells us, "Lupus is a severe long-term disease caused by the effects of an overactive immune system that attacks healthy tissues in the body leading to organ damage, fever, and joint pains." While there's no cure for Lupus, there are effective treatments that can improve symptoms. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain what exactly lupus is, what it feels like and who is at risk. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Lupus?

Wooden block form the word LUPUS with stethoscope

Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, Urgent Care Medical Director and Physician, St. Mary's Health Network explains, "Lupus is a disease that involves your immune system-network that usually protects your body from disease. It's attacking your body's organs and tissues. Think of it as a battle or war happening within someone's body without the presence of disease, infection, or injury. The organs most affected are the kidneys, lungs, brain, heart, and blood vessels."

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What Lupus Feels Like

Senior woman suffering from pain in hand at home.

Dr. Curry-Winchell reveals, "Patients often share a wide variety of symptoms when describing the pain they feel. It can involve a level of hypersensitivity meaning everything they feel, touch or exposed causes intense pain."

Dr. Boyer adds, "The pain and stiffness experienced by most people tend to increase gradually and are similar to pain felt if you have the flu. People suffering from this disease have reported experiencing it throughout the body, particularly in the morning. The pain in the joints keeps on moving from joint to joint and may make patients numb and also leave them exhausted."

Dr. Lea McMahon LPC, a licensed counselor, adjunct professor of Psychology and Chief Clinical Officer at Symetria Recovery says, "A patient diagnosed with lupus defines the pain as completely out of their control. They experience traveling pain from one joint to another; the pain fluctuates in its severity. The pain can be best described as though you are being stabbed repeatedly." 

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What Causes Lupus?

Doctor showing test results to a patient, portrait.

According to  Dr. Curry-Winchell, "The exact cause is unknown, and researchers and scientists are actively trying to pinpoint the cause and why symptoms tend to be widespread. Lupus is often called the diagnosis of exclusion. There are several different kinds of Lupus that can range from severe to mild/moderate in presentation." 

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Who is at Risk for Lupus?

Distraught senior man sitting at hospital waiting room while female doctor is holding his hand and comforting him

"All ages are at risk for Lupus," says Dr. Curry-Winchell. "When present during childhood it is often more severe and can affect the kidneys. It is more common in women however, men can be affected and often more severe when present in males."  

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How Does Lupus Affect Your Daily Life?

Depressed man

"Because the disease can affect one's mental and physical well-being and varies for each patient, the impact on one's daily life can range from minor to completely disruptive daily activities and outlook on life," states Dr. Curry-Winchell.

Dr. Boyer says, "Lupus leads to pain that is felt throughout the body. The severity of pain linked to Lupus normally increases gradually and may also keep on disappearing and reappearing. This may greatly affect your daily activities because the pain may become unbearable at times, making it hard to work effectively and also affecting your general well-being." 

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Treatment for Lupus

Prescription pill bottle medicine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, "Your treatment will depend on your symptoms and needs. The goals of treatment are to:

  • Prevent flares
  • Treat symptoms when they happen
  • Reduce organ damage and other problems
  • Your treatment might include medicines to:
  • Reduce swelling and pain
  • Calm your immune system to prevent it from attacking the organs and tissues in your body
  • Reduce or prevent damage to the joints
  • Reduce or prevent organ damage

Talk to your doctor:

  • About any side effects you may have
  • If your medicines no longer help your symptoms
  • If you have new symptoms
  • If you want to become pregnant
  • About any vitamins or herbal supplements you take — they might not mix well with medicines you use to treat lupus." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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