The first significant symptom that I had that indicated something was seriously wrong was that my hair began coming out of my scalp in thick, cylindrical clumps, leaving behind smooth, round bald patches from which no further hair would grow. The first time this happened, I was sitting at my desk, working, and idly twirling a lock of my long, blond hair. Suddenly, the whole lock pulled away from my scalp, and I sat staring at it, completely shocked.
Over the course of several months, the same thing happened over and over, until I could no longer cover up the very glaring bald spots with my remaining, increasingly sparse, hair. After the first episode, I saw my doctor, who told me to see a dermatologist and assured me “nothing bad was going on.” But neither he nor the dermatologist ran any bloodwork for a full year (they did tell me to “reduce stress,” however, which was impossible due in great part to seeing myself go bald for no apparent reason!). Once, the internal medicine doc even asked me, “Are you sure you’re not pulling your hair out yourself because you’re so stressed?”
After a full year of hair loss, I realized that other symptoms had been occurring, too, although at the time I didn’t identify them as symptoms (and didn’t know what lupus was at all). I was bone-numbingly tired, oversleeping alarms and barely able to get through many days. My hands were very painful, and I began dropping things without warning. Finally, I prayed for wisdom to know what to say, then asked my dermatologist to run some bloodwork, “just to humor me,” even though she was certain I was fine (after all, besides the hair loss, I looked healthy, didn’t I, with those rosy cheeks…which turned out to be a very red, inflamed lupus rash).
The bloodwork results led me to a rheumatologist who did the most comprehensive examination I’d ever had from a medical professional. She went back in my medical history, ordered more tests, and, when all was said and done, told me, “Lupus is trying to kill you. And if you don’t do something about it, now, it will.” I’d developed internal organ involvement, and some of the damage was already permanent.
I had no idea what lupus was, but I learned quickly!
Not everyone will experience the same set of symptoms that I did. Each lupus patient is an individual, and each has an individual set of symptoms. Also, not everyone with hair loss and the other things I experienced will be diagnosed with lupus. But it behooves anyone who experiences these or other significant symptoms to seek good, attentive medical advice. Be persistent, too; I have spoken with many lupus patients whose doctors at first dismissed them and their symptoms like mine did. And pray for guidance all along the way. As I have and continue to experience, God never abandons us, especially when our lives seem to be changing in ways we do not understand.
For more information about lupus symptoms, visit the Lupus Foundation of America’s website: www.lupus.org
Blessings for the day!