Lupus Sufferers: When to Call a Doctor

Advice for people with SLE

A high fever is reason for lupus patients to call their doctor.
A high fever is reason for lupus patients to call their doctor. Team Static/Getty Images

As most patients with lupus understand, although you can’t cure the disease, you can treat the symptoms. Consequently, a person with lupus can live a long and relatively normal life. However, as with any chronic illness, it is imperative that you understand your disease and know when warning signs are begging you to seek help – either by placing a call to your physician or taking a trip to the E.R.

Lupus is no different from any chronic illness. Know the following warning signs and what they’re trying to tell you.

When to Call a Physician

  • You are suffering from chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trips to the bathroom are occurring less often, and you are urinating in smaller amounts than usual. Additionally, note any blood in the urine
  • A fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit without recent exposure to the cold or the flu
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Swelling in your lower legs or feet
  • Noticeable behavioral changes, like anxiety or depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of hair
  • Skin rashes
  • New mouth or nose sores
  • Any worsening of previously known symptoms

When to Call 911

You also need to be aware when the best course of action is to call 911 or visit an emergency room. These symptoms include the following:

  • Crushing chest pain accompanied by sweating or nausea
  • Sudden shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Signs of stroke, including
    • Numbness, tingling, weakness or paralysis of all or part of one side of your body
    • Sudden vision changes – blurring, double vision, etcetera
    • Seizure
    • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
    • Sudden nausea or vomiting
    • Sudden, severe headache, different from previous headaches
    • Sudden dizziness, staggering or fainting

    When to call a physician if you haven’t yet been diagnosed

    You may be reading this without being diagnosed as suffering from lupus – but instead wondering whether you have the disease. Consider these symptoms if you haven’t yet been diagnosed:

    • Unexplained joint pain
    • Unexplained fatigue
    • Skin rashes

    A Few Words About Lupus

    The term "lupus" is typically used to refer to the most common type of lupus: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However in addition to SLE, there 3 other types of lupus: drug-induced lupus, cutaneous lupus and neonatal lupus. Of note, SLE makes up 70 percent of all lupus cases.

    More generally, lupus is an autoimmune disease. Typically, your body's immune system fights off foreign insults and invaders like bacteria. However, with an autoimmune disease, your immune system turns on the body itself. Lupus is notable among autoimmune diseases because it can result in injury and damage to virtually any part of the body; thus, lupus can present in a variety of ways, which makes diagnosis difficult.

    After reviewing symptoms and other information about the disease, if you suspect that you have lupus, please contact a physician and immediately let her known of your suspicions. Although no cure for lupus currently exists, there are effective treatments for the symptoms of lupus.

    It's important to be diagnosed and treated for lupus as soon as possible. Please take heart that many people with lupus live happy and otherwise healthy lives.