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Lupus Chills Without Fever: Causes and Management

Posted on July 14, 2023

Have you ever gotten the chills without having a fever? “I can be at a perfectly comfortable temperature for hours, not feel cold, and suddenly get chills over my whole body,” one MyLupusTeam member wrote. The sensation of feeling cold and shivery without explanation can be alarming and physically uncomfortable.

Some people with lupus experience chills as one of their symptoms. While chills can be a symptom of lupus without fever, other conditions can also cause chills without fever.

Does Lupus Cause Chills?

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the immune system malfunctioning. There are several types of lupus, the most common being systemic lupus erythematosus. Normally, our bodies produce proteins called antibodies to fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. However, in autoimmune disorders such as lupus, these antibodies mistakenly target the body’s own organs and tissues.

This misguided immune response can give rise to a range of symptoms. Chills are not generally considered a common symptom of lupus. However, lupus can have many physical manifestations, and it is theoretically possible that chills could be one of those symptoms.

More common symptoms of lupus include:

  • Joint pain
  • Sores
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Chest pain
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle pain

Lupus is a complex disease that can affect various organs and systems in the body. Some individuals may develop lupus nephritis, kidney damage and impaired kidney function. Others may develop problems with their heart, lungs, or nervous system. Additionally, lupus can impact the blood, leading to anemia (low levels of red blood cells) and blood-clotting disorders.

Lupus can mimic flu-like symptoms, sometimes causing only chills and fatigue. A person might have a normal temperature or low-grade fever of less than 100 F. While a person living with lupus may not always experience symptoms, they can be brought on by environmental and emotional stressors. These stressors can trigger what’s known as a flare-up of symptoms. Lupus flares are episodes characterized by a sudden increase in symptoms.

What Else Causes Chills Without Fever?

Chills without fever can have various causes other than lupus, which are important to consider if you’re experiencing this symptom. Here we’ll review some of the other causes and what additional symptoms you can look out for.

Hypothyroidism

One possible cause of chills is hypothyroidism, which refers to an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in making and releasing hormones involved in metabolism. When the thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones, it can lead to an array of symptoms, including:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Joint and muscle pain

Individuals with hypothyroidism can also experience chills or cold intolerance.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia — which occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels drop too low — can also cause chills, along with symptoms such as sweating and heart palpitations. Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is important for preventing hypoglycemia. In some cases, certain medical conditions can also lead to hypoglycemia.

Cold Temperatures

Exposure to cold temperatures can also result in chills. When the body is exposed to cold air or surroundings, it naturally responds by constricting (narrowing) blood vessels. This process generates heat to maintain a stable internal body temperature. This response can cause chills, even if you don’t have an underlying medical condition.

Other Conditions

Other conditions can lead to chills without fever, such as anemia, infections, or menopause. Your doctor can help you understand if any of the conditions below are responsible for your symptoms.

  • Anemia — When your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, you have less oxygen in your blood. This can lead to fatigue, headaches, weakness, and potentially chills.
  • Infections — Infections, particularly those associated with the onset of fever, can trigger chills. Sometimes the chills occur before the fever develops.
  • Menopause — In menopause, a person’s hormones undergo changes. Temperature changes are common during menopause, including hot and cold flashes.

Medication Side Effects

Some prescription medications have side effects that include chills. These include medicines used to treat lupus. Known culprits include:

  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone
  • Monoclonal antibody therapies, including belimumab (Benlysta)
  • Immunosuppressants, including methotrexate

If you’re experiencing chills without an obvious cause, it’s important to contact your doctor. They can perform a thorough evaluation and conduct relevant tests to help identify the underlying cause of your symptoms. Once your doctor determines the root cause, they can initiate appropriate treatment to address the specific condition contributing to the chills.

Treating Chills

Living with chills — even without a fever — can be physically uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are several ways to manage the symptom.

Change the Temperature

To alleviate chills, consider adjusting your surroundings. Some people choose to reside in moderate climates to minimize symptom aggravation. Alternatively, you can regulate the thermostat at home or avoid going outside during extreme temperatures. One MyLupusTeam member shared that they wear a “heated jacket powered by a rechargeable battery” to help with their chills.

Over-the-Counter Medications

You may consider using over-the-counter medications if your chills are related to an illness like the flu. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen can help alleviate discomfort associated with chills and other lupus symptoms.

Even though NSAIDs are over-the-counter medications, it’s best to consult a doctor before using them — especially if you have an underlying condition like lupus. They can provide proper guidance, taking into account your specific health situation and any other medications you may be taking.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you experience chills often without a fever, consult your doctor. It might be a sign of infection or an impending lupus flare that needs medical attention. Your doctor will be the best resource to help you figure out what’s going on. They will administer appropriate tests and guide you in addressing the root cause to relieve your symptoms.

Get Support From Your Team

On MyLupusTeam, the social network for people with lupus and their loved ones, more than 223,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lupus.

Have you experienced chills without a fever? What did you do to alleviate your symptoms? Did you work with a doctor to figure out what was driving the symptom? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on July 14, 2023
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    Prakruthi Jaladhar, M.D., DNB completed her medical education at Mysore Medical College, followed by an internal medicine residency at Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) in Bangalore. Learn more about her here.
    Hannah Actor-Engel, Ph.D. is a multidisciplinary neuroscientist who is passionate about scientific communication and improving global health through biomedical research. Learn more about her here.

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