How to Spot the Signs of Lupus in Children

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is a condition with long-term symptoms. Treatment can be effective, but it is also notoriously difficult to get a diagnosis, especially for children. Better awareness of the signs of lupus in children could help diagnosis rates and prevent serious complications from occuring.

About lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects people of all ages. It’s a condition in which the body’s antibodies begin attacking healthy tissues. The symptoms vary from person to person, and many people will go undiagnosed for years. There is some uncertainty around what causes lupus, but it can develop as a result of menopause, childbirth, medication, viruses and other factors.

Signs and symptoms of lupus in children

Lupus is difficult to diagnose in adults. Some of the symptoms of lupus can be mistaken for other conditions, and a series of tests is usually necessary to form a diagnosis. Lupus in children, however, is even more difficult to identify, as the symptoms are subtle, and they often occur over time.

It’s important that GPs are aware of the signs of lupus. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes, including a ‘butterfly’-style rash under the eyes
  • Seizures

Children often find it difficult to express these kinds of symptoms, and many of their symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses. Keeping an eye out for the signs of lupus in children could help you seek a faster diagnosis and provide children with the treatment they need to avoid serious complications.

Diagnosing lupus in children

Some symptoms of lupus are easy to dismiss, especially as the condition isn’t very common. However, a blood test that shows a high level of antibodies, in addition to other symptoms, can help to get a lupus diagnosis.

Other checks and tests can be carried out once lupus is diagnosed to review how the condition has affected different parts of the body. After diagnosis, a patient could be referred to a rheumatologist to continue their treatment. Typical treatments include anti-inflammatories, steroid creams and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) medication. GPs can also encourage patients to practice self-care. A healthy diet, staying active and using adequate sun protection can help.

GP workload and diagnosing difficult illnesses

While cases of lupus are rare, it is important that doctors identify the symptoms as soon as possible. Heavy workloads, a lack of patient time and the need to get through multiple patients can make it difficult to diagnose complicated illnesses like lupus.

If you’re a GP suffering under the strain of a high workload, you might want to consider switching to out-of-hours working. Out-of-hours doctors experience a different side to working in general practice. This kind of work allows you to focus on different skills, such as triage, and provides more flexibility. Find out more about our available roles on the EBPCOOH jobs pages.