by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Problems from SLE range from mild to harsh. In some, only one part of the body has problems. In others, many parts of the body have problems. It differs in each person. Symptoms often flare up and then go away. They may be lasting in some people. SLE may cause:

  • General problems such as:
    • Tiredness
    • Headaches
    • Fever without signs of infection
    • Swollen lymph nodes around the throat
    • Weight loss or lack of hunger
  • Mouth problems, such as sores
  • Muscle and bone problems such as:
  • Skin problems such as:
    • A butterfly-shaped rash over the nose and cheeks (a key sign)
    • Sensitivity to sunlight
    • Hair loss
    • Raynaud phenomenon —poor blood flow that causes numbness, or blue or white fingertips when you are cold
    • Red or purple rash
    • Hives
  • Heart and lung problems, such as chest pain and problems breathing
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, or belly pain
  • Kidney problems, such as blood in the urine or swelling
  • Neuropsychiatric problems, such as:
    • Mental health problems, such as depression
    • Seizures
    • Peripheral neuropathy —nerve pain or numbness
    • Swelling around one or both sides the cord in the spine, which may cause pain, stiffness, and problems moving
A Key Sign of SLE
Copyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

SLE Problems

Over time SLE can lead to:

  • Kidney disease—Long term swelling can harm structures in the kidney. This keeps them from working the right way.
  • Heart disorders—Swelling can affect tissue of the blood vessels, heart, and heart valves. This can lead to heart problems, such as high blood pressure , heart failure , heart attack , or stroke .
  • Breathing problems—Chronic swelling can harm and scar the tissue of the lungs or the lining around them. This makes it hard to get oxygen into the blood. It can cause chest pain or a hard time breathing.
  • Brain disorders—Swelling of nerves can lead to headaches , mood problems, cognitive impairment , psychosis , and seizures .
  • Blood disorders—Swelling can also lead to damage of blood cells and anemia (low red blood cells), thrombocytopenia , leukopenia, or an greater risk of blood clots (which can lead to heart attack or stroke).

SLE may also cause problems during pregnancy. There may be a flare-up of symptoms, kidney problems, or a type of high blood pressure called pre-eclampsia . There is also a greater risk of premature birth , stillbirth , miscarriage , or growth problems with the baby in the womb.


Common symptoms of lupus. Lupus Foundation of America website. Available at: Accessed September 5, 2018.

Lupus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed August 31, 2018.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated July 20, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated February 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.

5/6/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  . Smyth A, Oliveira GH, Lahr BD, Bailey KR, Norby SM, Garovic VD. 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.

Revision Information