What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lupus in a Toddler?

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lupus in a Toddler?
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Lupus in a Toddler? (Image: Lonnie Bradley)

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease. It can mimic the symptoms of other diseases and conditions because it has an effect on many different parts of the body, including multiple organs. The most common symptoms include fatigue, anemia, pleurisy and edema, but not every toddler will experience the same symptoms or all of these symptoms.


Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of lupus in toddlers. If your toddler has woken from a night of sleep or a nap and is still tired or sluggish, she is likely fatigued. Fatigue also can be a symptom of many different disorders, but it is the biggest complaint of those who suffer from lupus.


Lupus is an inflammatory joint disease so toddlers with lupus will experience swollen and painful joints. This can be noticed when a toddler is having trouble performing normal tasks or seems to be experiencing pain when performing activities such as running, walking, throwing a ball, building with blocks or any other movement related to the hands, knees and feet. Parents may notice that there is swelling around the joints that seem to be causing the toddler pain.


Edema is swelling of the feet, legs, hands and face. The toddler may have pain due to this swelling, especially when trying to do activities like walking or running. Swelling is a common symptom with any joint problems but it can be particularly acute with joint inflammatory diseases.


Anemia can be common in toddlers who are not getting enough iron, but it is also a symptom of lupus in toddlers. Anemia is defined as a low total amount of blood in the body, low amount of red blood cells in the blood, or low levels of hemoglobin in the blood. A toddler may look pale due to anemia, but this is not used for diagnosis. Any one of these symptoms of anemia in a toddler may indicate that lupus is present, but anemia may only be diagnosed through blood tests.


Pleurisy is one symptom of lupus that cannot be ignored. It is defined as deep, shallow breathing. Toddlers may also complain of pain in their chest. This usually occurs when the toddler has had a lot of activity, which may make it harder to notice but may also occur at other times when the child has been inactive or resting and so should be taken care of immediately by a physician. A parent will notice that the toddler is having a difficult time breathing and seems to have a hard time pulling air into his lungs.


Photosensitivity is sensitivity to light or the sun. A toddler with photosensitivity may squint more when outside or may be caught shielding his eyes from the sun or trying to stay out of the sun altogether.


A rash will appear on the toddler's face, specifically his cheeks and nose. It may also appear to have a butterfly shape to it. It will likely not be itchy or painful to the toddler. This rash is a common, yet not serious, symptom of lupus.

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