Boy, I sure hate to have to share this....there are plenty of things that Lupus does, that I wish we didn't have to endure....and more than that, I wish I didn't have to share it with anyone because I hate to be the bearer of bad news and worry those who are new to Lupus.
But, I feel like I can't just ignore your question....
Yes, Lupus can cause joint damage. I am living it right now. After 27 years of living with arthritis and inflammation, my right wrist is collapsing. It's been doing it slowly, but has gotten much worse over the last 3 years. My orthopedist has been monitoring it with x-rays. The wrist is collapsing on my thumb side, which is slowly pushing my wrist bone upward and it's slowly deforming my hand and twisting my arm. It's now causing pretty severe pain in my elbow and shoulder, not to mention impinging on the main nerve to my hand.
I just saw my hand and wrist specialist a few weeks ago, and unfortunately, I have to have surgery to fuse my wrist, in order to stop the deformity. And then a second part to reshape the wrist bone, to release the nerve which runs directly under it. My left wrist has started the same thing, but it's slower going because I'm right handed and use that one much more.
This is the same thing that happened to both of my hips, which I had replaced 9 years ago. It happened more rapidly in my hips when I was on high doses of Prednisone following my diagnosis.
Sorry to have to share this news....but the reality is.....yes, the inflammation and arthritis caused by Lupus can and does cause damage to your joints. How much and how quickly it does this, is of course different in every person.
My best advice....find a doctor that will help determine the very best treatment that works for your body to protect your joints as much as possible. The less inflammation, the longer your joints are going to last. Also, be diligent about making sure your body has all the nutrients it needs. It's important to eat as healthy as possible, and avoid the fad diets or ones that well-meaning friends or family insist will "cure" your Lupus. Just do your best to eat healthy and well balanced every day. I also dose daily with a super-mega multivitamin, extra calcium, fish oil, extra Vitamin C and E, and supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin (for the joints). My Immunologist believes that, had I not supplemented with these, the damage would have occured many years sooner.
How long have you had arthritis and inflammation in your fingers and toes, Kathy? Is it recently that your symtpoms have started, or already years into it?