Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can affect the throat in multiple ways and may cause a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.

SLE is the most common form of lupus. Although it can cause throat symptoms, it usually responds to treatment.

Throat pain in people with lupus is also relatively common. According to older research, as many as 1 in 3 people with SLE have throat and larynx symptoms.

Read on to learn about throat symptoms, early lupus symptoms, sore throat remedies, and more.

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Lupus is a complex disease that affects every person differently, which makes it difficult to diagnose and track.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 161,000–322,000 Americans develop SLE each year. Research shows that it may affect the throat and larynx in up to one-third of people with SLE.

Lupus sore throat symptoms can include:

Lupus can also affect the larynx, also known as the voice box. This is often asymptomatic, but it may cause:

  • hoarseness
  • difficulty speaking
  • pain when swallowing
  • chronic cough
  • trouble breathing

Lupus is difficult to diagnose because it attacks the body in multiple ways. Every person will respond differently to those attacks.

Research from 2020 identified factors that could help diagnose the condition in most people experiencing it. They include:

  • a butterfly rash across the bridge of the nose and on the cheeks
  • noninfectious fever
  • hair loss
  • discoid rash
  • skin is sensitive to sunlight or UV light
  • joint pain

SLE is more common in women than men. Among people diagnosed with lupus, 9 out of 10 are women aged 15–44 years. It is also more common in people who are Black, Native American, Hispanic, and Asian than in white people.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Treating lupus can require a team approach because the disease can affect multiple organs.

It is a chronic condition and has no cure. However, treatment can help a person with lupus feel more comfortable, reduce the likelihood of organ damage, and prevent worsening symptoms.

Many medications are used to treat SLE and its manifestations, including sore throat.

Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids such as prednisone, antimalarial medications, drugs to stabilize the immune system, and medications to control symptoms of lupus.

NSAIDS are available in both over-the-counter and prescription forms.

Whether taken orally, given as an injection, or applied to the skin, steroids can be effective in reducing the pain, swelling, and immune system overactivity associated with lupus. Physicians may use steroid injections to treat lupus sore throat.

The antimalarial medications hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine phosphate are used to treat fatigue, rashes, joint pain, and lung inflammation. They can help prevent the sudden worsening of symptoms such as sore throat and may also help prolong the lives of people living with lupus.

A person with lupus may also need medication to address the complications of the disease. Lupus can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and blood clots, which can all be treated with medication.

Many of the drugs used to treat SLE and sore throat can be very powerful and may cause side effects. Therefore, people with lupus need to work closely with their healthcare teams, keep a close eye on their condition, and promptly report any new symptoms or possible side effects.

In addition to medical treatment, a person with lupus can make lifestyle choices and practice self-care that may help them manage their symptoms and prevent flares.

Certain everyday practices can help a person with SLE and sore throat feel more comfortable. These include:

  • getting enough rest
  • avoiding tobacco
  • getting regular exercise
  • using sunscreen
  • striving to reduce stress
  • eating a balanced, healthy diet

Regular exercise can help people achieve a moderate weight and promote a more positive outlook, both of which are important for people with lupus. A nutritious diet can provide the essential nutrients people need to manage the condition.

Additionally, since people with lupus should avoid direct exposure to sunlight, they might need to take vitamin D supplements.

Research has shown a connection between certain lifestyle factors and increased lupus disease activity. These factors include:

  • smoking
  • lacking physical activity
  • having high stress levels
  • eating a diet high in salt and fat
  • being overweight

Although lupus symptoms can be mild, they can seriously interfere with a person’s quality of life. In some cases, they may even be life threatening. As soon as a person notices symptoms that could be lupus, they should see a physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Additionally, ongoing regular medical care is important because people with lupus have an increased risk for complications such as:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • heart inflammation
  • kidney disease
  • stroke

While there is no cure for lupus, prompt diagnosis and treatment can help a person manage their lupus, prevent damage to the joints and other organs, and reduce the frequency of flares.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and damage anywhere in the body.

SLE, the most common form of lupus, can affect the throat through inflammation, sores, and swelling. This can cause difficulty speaking, pain when swallowing, chronic cough, and trouble breathing.

Lupus cannot be cured. It can usually be managed with treatment, although people with lupus should monitor themselves for side effects during treatment.