How to Differentiate Between Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Lupus Symptoms

Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two commonly occurring autoimmune diseases. These diseases can get confused for one another because some lupus symptoms are similar to the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

An autoimmune disease is caused by the abnormal behavior of the immune system when it attacks your own body cells. The reason for this dysfunction of the immune system is still unknown, but you can get this disease if any of your ancestors had it. Both lupus and RA are such diseases that occur because of the irregular behavior of the immune system that often results in inflammation and swelling in your body.

How lupus and RA are similar?

Some signs of lupus are the same as RA including joint pain, swelling and inflammations in joints etc. However, the level of inflammation can vary for both diseases. Both lupus and RA can make your joints to become tender and hot, but these symptoms are more pronounced in RA.

Another similarity between these diseases is that they may affect your energy level too. Either disease can cause weakness and fatigue for people who are suffering from them. You may also have a periodic fever if you have any of these diseases, but this symptom is prominent for lupus. Also, both these diseases are more common in women than men.

How lupus and RA are different?

Despite the similarities, these two diseases have a lot of differences too. Even though lupus can affect your joints, there is more chance for it to affect your internal organs and skin than RA. Lupus can sometimes cause complications that can be life-threatening, including seizures, clotting problems, kidney failure, etc., that won’t happen with RA.

RA mainly attacks your joints. It can affect your wrists, ankles, fingers, knees, etc. RA can also result in joint deformity which is not one of the lupus symptoms.

RA can also cause inflammation around the heart and in the lungs which are not usually associated with lupus. Also, joint pain caused by RA will be worse in the morning and will be reduced as the day progresses; however, the pain caused by lupus will be persistent throughout the day and may migrate.

Why they are confused for one another?

As both these diseases share some common symptoms, it is possible for people to get misdiagnosed for the wrong disease during the initial stages. However, if it becomes advanced, doctors will be able to distinguish between these two as some lupus symptoms are different from that of RA. For example, RA can cause bone erosion and deformity when it becomes advanced, but these are not usual signs of lupus. Likewise, doctors can diagnose the right disease by finding out the occurrence of symptoms that are specific for each disease.