Systemic Lupus: Understanding the Connection with Arthritis


Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly referred to as lupus, is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, kidneys, and heart. One of the most common symptoms of lupus is joint pain and inflammation, which can be mistaken for arthritis. This article will explore the connection between systemic lupus and arthritis, how lupus affects the joints and available treatment options.


Understanding Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs, including the joints. The exact cause of lupus is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Common lupus symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, fever, skin rashes, and hair loss. However, lupus can affect any body part, including the kidneys, lungs, heart, and nervous system. Lupus symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the disease can be unpredictable, with periods of remission and flare-ups.


How Lupus Affects the Joints

Joint pain and inflammation are common symptoms of lupus and can be mistaken for arthritis. However, there are some key differences between lupus and arthritis. In lupus, joint pain is usually symmetrical, meaning it occurs on both sides of the body and can affect any joint. In contrast, arthritis typically affects specific joints, such as the hands, knees, and hips.

Lupus can also cause other symptoms not typically associated with arthritis, such as skin rashes, hair loss, and sensitivity to sunlight. In addition, lupus can cause joint pain without causing any visible signs of inflammation, such as swelling or redness.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing lupus can be challenging because the symptoms are often similar to other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia. Therefore, the diagnosis is usually based on symptoms, blood tests, and a physical exam.

Treatment for lupus usually involves a combination of medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for joint pain and inflammation, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and immunosuppressants to prevent the immune system from attacking healthy tissues.

In addition to medication, lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of lupus. These include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and avoiding triggers like stress and sunlight.


The Connection With Arthritis

Although lupus and arthritis have some similarities in joint pain and inflammation, they are distinct. However, it is not uncommon for people with lupus to develop arthritis or those with arthritis to develop lupus.

People with lupus are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints wears down over time. Lupus can also cause a type of arthritis called lupus arthritis, which is caused by joint inflammation.

In addition, people with lupus are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and inflammation. However, the exact relationship between lupus and rheumatoid arthritis is not fully understood.



Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting various body parts, including the joints. While lupus and arthritis share some similarities in joint pain and inflammation, they are distinct. Lupus can cause a type of arthritis called lupus arthritis and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you are experiencing joint pain or other lupus symptoms, you must see a professional rheumatologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms of lupus and prevent long-term damage to the joints and other organs.

Living with lupus can be challenging, but resources are available to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Support groups, educational resources, and online forums can connect you with others living with lupus and provide the tools you need to manage your symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with lupus, working closely with a doctor specializing in lupus treatment to develop a treatment plan that is right for you is essential. By working together, you can manage your symptoms, prevent complications, and live a full and active life.

Scroll to Top