The symptoms of SLE vary from mild to extremely severe and debilitating. In some patients, only one part of the body—for example, the skin—is affected. In others, many parts of the body are affected. Each case is unique in the symptoms that it produces. Though symptoms of SLE can be chronic, they usually flare up and subside intermittently.

General symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever without signs of infection
  • Swollen, enlarged lymph nodes which may be felt around the throat
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath

Musculoskeletal symptoms include:

  • Arthritis —inflammation of the joints
  • Arthralgia—pain in the joints
  • Inflammation of the muscles
  • Muscle weakness

Skin symptoms include:

  • Characteristic butterfly-shaped rash over the nose and cheeks
  • Photosensitivity—sensitivity to sun and light
  • Hair loss
  • Raynaud's phenomenon —reduced circulation resulting in numbness, or blue or white fingertips when cold
  • Red or purple rash
  • Hives
Butterfly Rash on the Face
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Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

Neuropsychiatric symptoms include:

  • Psychiatric disorders, such as depression
  • Seizures
  • Peripheral neuropathy —nerve pain or numbness
  • Inflammation around one or both sides the spinal cord, which may lead to pain, muscle stiffness, or paralysis

SLE may cause complications during pregnancy. There may be a flare-up of symptoms, kidney problems, or pre-eclampsia . There is also an increased risk of premature birth , stillbirth , miscarriage , or growth problems with the baby during pregnancy.

Revision Information

  • Handout on health: Systemic lupus erythematosus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Lupus/default.asp. Updated August 2011. Accessed June 28, 2013.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated June 13, 2013. Accessed June 28, 2013.

  • What are the symptoms for developing lupus? Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: http://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new%5Flearnunderstanding.aspx?articleid=2235&zoneid=523. Accessed June 28, 2013.

  • 5/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Smyth A, Oliveira GH, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of pregnancy outcomes in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and lupus nephritis. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010;5(11):2060-2068.