Guest Post : Common Lupus Imitators

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Getting answers isn’t easy, but lupus patients face extra confusion.

Lupus stands out as one of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses. People who suffer from this condition are frequently misdiagnosed as having something else before they are finally given the correct diagnosis. When people are misdiagnosed as having something other than lupus, they fail to get the medications and the treatment they need to bring their lupus under control and into remission, and may feel victimized by medical malpractice. People who suffer from symptoms like fatigue, facial rash, forgetfulness, painful and swollen joints, and other ailments that could indicate lupus may be misdiagnosed first as having any of the following conditions.


When a lupus patient first comes to a doctor and reports having a poor memory and no ambition to enjoy his or her normal routine, that physician may first hand down a diagnosis of depression. That person may be given antidepressants and told to seek counseling. However, it soon may become obvious that the person was misdiagnosed when the medication fails to help with the symptoms and the person’s therapist can find little wrong with the person’s disposition. The doctor may then be urged to consider lupus as the correct diagnosis.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome are commonly mistaken for each other. CFS features many of the same symptoms as lupus, including swollen and painful joints, forgetfulness, overwhelming fatigue, and a feeling of overall malaise. However, lupus patients have a distinct facial rash that is not present in patients who suffer from CFS. If a person has a butterfly rash on his or her face, that person’s doctor may consider lupus as the correct diagnosis for that person.


Along with forgetfulness, fatigue, and rashes, people with lupus most frequently complain about sore joints and swollen limbs. Upon hearing these complaints, doctors may be quick to diagnose these individuals as having arthritis. However, this diagnosis does not account for people’s other presenting symptoms, including the overall feeling of being sick and debilitating fatigue. When these symptoms remain after a person is treated for joint and muscle pain, the physician may be compelled to consider lupus as a valid diagnosis.


Many lupus patients have a distinct butterfly-shaped rash on their faces. In fact, many physicians use this rash as a primary indicator that the person may suffer from lupus. However, just as many doctors are quick to dismiss the rash as rosacea. They may prescribe ointments and medications aimed to rid the person’s face of this rash. When the rash disappears, but the other symptoms remain, the doctor may then need to amend his or her diagnosis to lupus.


Lupus is frequently mistaken for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is hallmarked by extremely sore and painful muscles and joints. People who have fibro often cannot leave their beds for days. Their level of pain is in fact on par with the pain and discomfort that lupus patients experience, however. When the medications and treatments designed for fibro fail to make any significant impact on a patient’s health, the doctor might then correct the diagnosis to lupus.

People who suffer from lupus are frequently misdiagnosed with other ailments first. Their misdiagnoses delay their correct treatment and access to proper medications. If you feel that you have been misdiagnosed, you may even be eligible for compensation due to malpractice and should contact a lawyer to see if you have a case. When doctors note that some or all of people’s symptoms remain, they may be compelled to consider that these individuals suffer from lupus.


Writer Melanie Fleury is a lupus sufferer who endured months of misdiagnoses and testing before reaching a final diagnosis. She has learned that a misdiagnosis is a common type of malpractice that health care providers may perpetrate. She used the website of Price Benowitz LLP at  to learn more about what qualifies as medical malpractice.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post : Common Lupus Imitators

  1. I am a 62 yr old woman and in 2010 I was hospitalized and treated for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. I tried to tell the OBGYN that I have not had vaginal sex for 22 yrs and have never had an STD in my life. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1998 from Stanford pain management. I have been very sick and have been recently diagnosed with systemic lupus and come to the knowledge that I was misdiagnosed in 2010. It was not P.I.D. but a rare case of an abdominal lupus flare. I was aggressively treated with I.V. antibiotics for 5 days and was discharged to hell on my couch for 3 months of absolute agony and pain. I had so many tests and at the end of the 3rd mo. A colanoscopy showed some diverticulitis due to the over use of antibiotics. I now have numg feet and toes and I could have been receiving the correct treatment all along. Should I sue?

    • I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say how a lawsuit might go, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to do a consultation and see what a lawyer would say.

  2. I couldn’t imagine living with the symptoms of a disease like lupus and being told that I was experiencing depression. It was also interesting to see that lupus is often misdiagnosed for fibromyalgia, cause I had a related thought while reading the intro of this post. I was thinking how fibromyalgia shares this similarity with lupus because it can be so hard to diagnose accurately the first time through.

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