Up to 1.5 million Americans are living with lupus and 90 percent of them are women. Lupus can be very difficult to diagnose and there is no single test for it. This is because symptoms tend to come and go in flares, which is very hard to pinpoint. Often, lupus causes rashes, joint pain, fatigue and hair loss that can look like other diseases. Here are six autoimmune diseases that are similar to lupus.
1. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Lupus and RA are autoimmune diseases. They’re caused by the immune system that goes wrong and attacks the healthy body. However, lupus affects nearly every part of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, brain, lungs and kidneys. RA, whereas, mainly affects the small joints of the body. These include the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows and feet. Symptoms can be very similar to those of lupus, such as:
- joint pain, swelling, warmth, and redness
- morning stiffness
- stiffness after long periods of sitting or inactivity
- chest pain
- tiredness or fatigue
- loss of appetite
- lack of energy
- weight loss
- dry eyes
RA can affect both sides of the body at the same time, in the same way. But in lupus, if one side of the joint is affected, the other side won’t be affected.
Like lupus, no single test can diagnose RA. To confirm you have RA, a doctor will look at your symptoms, do a physical exam, and recommend some lab and imaging tests.
In most cases, RA is treated with corticosteroids, NSAIDs and painkillers. You can also do mild exercise like walking or yoga to get symptom relief.
Learn more: 5 Benefits of Exercise to Control Lupus Symptoms
Be careful with hypothyroidism. It is an autoimmune thyroid disease that can look like lupus. Hypothyroidism occurs when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can cause the symptoms that are similar to those of lupus, including:
- hair loss
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- painful menstrual periods
Studies show that this thyroid disease is related to lupus and you can have the two conditions at the same time. Like lupus, hypothyroidism most often strikes middle-aged and older women. But infants, children and teens can be affected as well.
To diagnose hypothyroidism, a doctor will do a blood test. If the test result indicates an underactive thyroid, it means you have the condition. To treat hypothyroidism, you should take medications and stick to a healthy diet. Load your diet with fruits, vegetables, seafood and nuts.
3. Multiple sclerosis (MS)
It’s so common to mistake lupus for MS, and vice versa. This is because both are autoimmune diseases that have similar symptoms at times. Like lupus, the causes of MS are still unknown. And, they all attack nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing:
- muscle and joint pain
- diminished ability to focus
- memory problems
However, lupus is characterized by rashes and arthritis. People with MS rarely experience strokes, seizures, headaches and personality changes.
To diagnose MS, a doctor will do a physical exam and order a brain MRI test. If necessary, a blood test, spinal tap test, and evoked potential test are recommended.
Certain medications can be used to treat MS. They include:
- immune-suppressants drugs
Manage stress. Eat a healthful, nutritious diet. Get plenty of rest and try to relax. Do exercises, such as swimming or yoga. These above methods can be very effective.
Both lupus and psoriasis affect the skin. They have several things in common:
- Both are autoimmune diseases
- Both have no known causes
- Both are not contagious
- Both do not cause cancer
Lupus and psoriasis can also share some symptoms, like red, scaly rashes on the scalp, knees or elbows. But psoriasis symptoms are usually less severe than lupus. Whereas, lupus causes body rashes or a butterfly-shaped rash on the face. These are not painful or itchy, but can get worse when exposed to the sun.
A doctor can diagnose psoriasis by looking at your symptoms. If necessary, he or she may prescribe some skin tests. You can apply topical corticosteroids to treat rashes of psoriasis and lupus. Besides, take some preventative tips, such as:
- Use sunscreen
- Avoid and manage stress
- Moisturize the skin
- Get adequate rest
- Eat a healthful diet
Learn more: Misunderstanding Between Psoriasis and Ringworm
Eczema is an autoimmune disease that makes the skin red, itchy, cracked and rough. Symptoms can be similar to lupus, and that’s why people often confuse the two. Eczema can cause rashes on anywhere of the body, including the neck, knees, elbows and face. Like lupus, eczema flares periodically. Rashes can go away for a time and then come back. It’s thought that several things can trigger eczema symptoms. For instance:
- Certain foods and drinks
- Environmental factors
- Climate and sweating
To diagnose eczema, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor. You can do a few things to alleviate symptoms and keep the skin healthy.
- Apply topical corticosteroid creams
- Have lukewarm baths
- Moisturize every day
- Wear cotton and soft fabrics
- Avoid potential triggers
Learn more: Herpes and Eczema: What’s the Difference?
Scleroderma is a rare debilitating autoimmune disease that can be misdiagnosed as lupus. The condition occurs when the body produces too much collagen. This causes the skin and connective tissues to harden, thicken and tighten. Like lupus, scleroderma is not contagious and it runs in families. Symptoms can be similar to lupus, including:
- red spots on the hands and feet
- Swollen hands or feet in the morning
- thickening or hardening of the skin of the fingers
There are many different types of scleroderma. To diagnose any of these, you should speak to a doctor. A physical examination and some tests in the doctor’s office can be useful. Nothing can cure scleroderma at this time. But you can use medications to control symptoms and prevent complications. Besides, follow a number of tips:
- Reduce stress
- Get enough sleep
- Do yoga and meditation
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine
- Avoid sugar, soda and processed foods
A number of autoimmune diseases are similar to lupus. This can lead to a misdiagnosis, which can cause wrong treatment and make symptoms worse. Often, lupus is treated with medications and lifestyle remedies. You need to avoid smoking, do exercise regularly, and wear sunscreen when going outside. Also, you can take vitamins and supplements to keep lupus in check. Some of the best lupus supplements to use are LupuFree, DHEA, Calcium, Turmeric, and Fish Oil. Consult your doctor before using them.