Skip to content

This information was reviewed and approved by JoAnn Zell (9/1/2017).

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lupus?

Lupus symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and can come and go, even without treatment. Symptoms often differ from person to person. New symptoms may continue to appear years after the initial diagnosis, and different symptoms can occur at different times.

In some people with lupus, only one system of the body, such as the skin or joints, is affected. Other people experience symptoms in many parts of the body. Just how seriously a body system is affected varies from person to person. For all of these reasons, it is often difficult to diagnose lupus in its early stages.

Lupus can affect almost any organ in your body. The time when a person is having symptoms is called a “flare,” which can range from mild to severe.

Some of the symptoms of lupus can include:

  • Rash over the cheeks (malar or butterfly rash)
  • Round raised patches (discoid rash), usually on the scalp or ears
  • Sensitivity to the sun or other ultraviolet light
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Ulcers or sores in the mouth
  • Pain and swelling in joints
  • Muscle pain
  • Inflammation around the lungs, heart or abdomen
  • Kidney inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Pale or purple fingers or toes
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling very tired.


Less common lupus symptoms include:

  • Problems in the nervous system such as seizures, strokes or psychosis
  • Abnormalities in the blood such as low blood counts
  • Headaches
  • Dizzy spells
  • Feeling sad
  • Confusion.


A patchy, round rash with no other symptoms may indicate a less common form of lupus, called discoid lupus. Subacute cutaneous lupus causes sores after being out in the sun.

For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.