Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that can affect many different organs in the body, including the muscles, bones, blood, kidneys, and skin (but it varies from person to person). Affecting women more than men, it usually presents itself between the ages of 16-55, but late-onset lupus can present anytime after 55, and again, will mainly occur in women.
Because many of the symptoms of late-onset lupus mimic symptoms of other diseases the elderly are already battling or may simply look like a natural consequence of getting older (achy joints or dry skin), it’s not uncommon for people to not get diagnosed for several years. And while many doctors look for the common facial rash that looks like a butterfly across the bridge of the nose to seek out lupus as a culprit, with late-onset lupus, that malar rash is much less common.
While it will take blood work to determine if your parent has developed late-onset lupus, some symptoms that either you or your parent may have noticed recently could lead you to seek out a proper diagnosis.
The most common symptoms of late-onset lupus are:
If your parent is suddenly losing weight without changing her diet or increasing her activity, it can be caused by many things, all of which should be reviewed by her physician. It is also a common symptom in late-onset lupus.
Arthralgias is joint pain without swelling. Very similar to arthritis and often confused with it, it usually will not cause swelling like arthritis does. It can occur in any of the joins of the body and is often mistaken for just a normal consequence of getting older. If your parent has demonstrated that she is feeling joint pain, maybe by having your home care provider open jars or help her down the stairs, it could be that she is suffering from arthralgias.
Myalgia is a term used for muscle pain. It’s common for someone to suffer from muscle pain after exerting themselves during exercise or strain. If your parent’s muscles are aching for no known reason, it could be that her late-onset lupus is causing that pain.
Weakness and fatigue
Again, both can be common simply because of age, so it’s important for you to talk to your parent about how fatigued she is or how weak she feels. When either or both are affecting how well she is able to perform daily functions, then the levels may be worth checking out.
If your parent seems to have a constant fever or one that comes and goes without any known illness, it could be her body as it tries to fight off the late-onset lupus. It’s usually a lower-grade fever so your parent may not even be aware of her fever unless you or her home care provider take it.
If your parent is suffering from cognitive issues such as brain fog, lack of concentration, or inability to focus, and has these other symptoms, she could have late-onset lupus.
Proper diagnosis will help your parent manage her symptoms and flare ups, as well as to make sure they don’t cause complications with any other health issues she may be battling. Have your parent visit her doctor soon if you feel she might have late-onset lupus.