Healthy Living

Lupus Complications

Lupus Complications

Key Takeaways

  • It is often difficult to diagnose lupus because its symptoms usually mimic other infections and diseases.
  • The most common symptom of lupus is a butterfly wing-shaped rash developing on both cheeks.
  • There is no available treatment to completely cure the disease.

Do you want to know the severe effects of lupus? Lupus causes inflammation such as redness, swelling, pain, and difficult movements. The inflammation spreads to many parts of the body when lupus increases its severity. It is a chronic disease where the immune system of the body attacks its own organs and tissues.

It is often difficult to diagnose lupus because its symptoms usually mimic other infections and diseases. The most common symptom of lupus is a butterfly wing-shaped rash developing on both cheeks. However, it does not happen in all lupus cases.

Lupus can develop due to infections, the intake of certain drugs, or even sunlight. There is no available treatment to completely cure the disease. That is why most patients manage the disease by controlling the symptoms.

Here’s a list of 12 lupus complications:

1. Kidney damage

One of the most serious consequences of lupus is the damage it causes to the kidneys leading to kidney failure, which is the leading cause of death in lupus patients. Edema or swollen legs are signs of a kidney problem. The symptoms of kidney problems include chest pain, vomiting, and itching. An early recognition of the signs and symptoms could help you deal with kidney problems better.

2. Hampered blood flow

Lupus is a disease with varying blood counts. The disease also leads to anemia or the lack of red blood cells in the blood. A low white blood cell (WBC) count is also seen in lupus, leading to excess fatigue. Moreover, a person with lupus has a reduced platelet count at times leading to clotting problems. Sometimes, blood also clots more than usual, hampering the flow of blood to various organs. The blood vessels also get inflamed.

3. Brain Fogging

Yes, lupus can also affect your brain. In such cases, the likely symptoms are:

Stroke

Stroke is a brain attack, wherein blood flow to the brain muscles is hampered. Stroke is caused by an increased occurrence of blood clots. Brain cells begin to die when they don’t get enough blood. Based on the area and the extent of damage, stroke can lead to a partial or great memory loss. It also leads to a temporary or permanent paralysis on one side of the body.

Seizures

Seizures result from an abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Symptoms may vary from mild symptoms such as staring spells to more severe symptoms such as rapid body movements.

Hallucinations

If you are experiencing hallucinations, you see things that don’t really exist such as hearing voices, seeing someone, hearing noises such as doors banging, and smelling something pleasant, among others. These things don’t exist in real life but are created by your mind when you have hallucinations.

Altered behavior

If lupus affects your brain, you may exhibit an altered behavior. You may not be able to execute your responsibilities towards your family and society like before. You might also go through memory problems and may find it difficult to express your thoughts. Other symptoms include dizziness, headache, fever, anxiety, depression, impaired vision or hearing, and even coma.

4. Heart attack

Lupus causes inflammation of the muscles, blood vessels, and the outer covering of the heart. Lupus enormously increases an individual's chance of having a heart attack and develop other cardiac problems such as hypertension or high blood pressure.

5. Lung disease

Lupus can also damage your lungs. Some people who have lupus report breathing difficulties, which is caused by an inflammation of the layers lining the lungs. It also increases one's chances of developing pneumonia.

6. Bone collapse

Lack of blood flow to the bones causes bone cell death and increases your risk of having minor fractures and eventually bone collapse. The hip joint is the most affected one.

7. Cancer

People with lupus are more likely to develop cancer compared to those people who don't have the disease.

8. An increased susceptibility to infections

Lupus weakens the immune system, so as its treatment. The most common infections experienced by lupus patients are urinary tract infections, herpes, shingles, salmonella, respiratory infections, and yeast infections.

9. Digestive tract problems

Forty-five percent of lupus patients experience nausea and vomiting, loose stools, abdominal pain, and weight loss. Sometimes, it also leads to a perforated intestine or a ruptured bowel, which is life-threatening.

10. Miscarriage

If you have lupus and you're pregnant, you are at high-risk of having a miscarriage. Lupus also increases the incidence of high blood pressure among pregnant mothers. Pregnant women with lupus are also 20 times at higher risk of maternal complications and death during pregnancy.

11. Temporary blindness

The blood vessels that supply blood to the eyes get inflamed because of lupus. Temporary blindness may result from vessel rupture. Five percent of lupus sufferers may experience vision problems.

12. Cold hands and feet

This is another effect of a hampered blood flow. If your hands and feet are cold or numb, one explanation is that there is not enough blood reaching your extremities. When such case happens, you might also notice that your hands and feet turn pale or blue. Having regular checkups with your doctor is crucial to prevent such complication.

How to diagnose lupus?

It is difficult to diagnose lupus because most of the symptoms resemble other infections and diseases. Its sign and symptoms tend to vary from time to time and from person-to-person. There is no particular test to diagnose lupus, but a combination of physical examination, blood tests, and urine tests is used for its diagnosis.

Different tests that are performed

  • Complete blood count (CBC): a laboratory test that measures the number of white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs), hemoglobin, and platelets in your blood. A low platelet and WBC count occur in both anemia and lupus.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): determines the rate at which the red blood cells (RBCs) settle at the bottom of a tube in an hour. Aside from lupus, this test is also used for the diagnosis of cancer and other inflammatory diseases.
  • Liver and kidney assessment: as lupus affects both organs, it is necessary to assess their overall function.
  • Urinalysis: if the kidney has been affected, then a urine sample will show an increased count of protein and red blood cells (RBCs).
  • ANA test (antinuclear antibody test): this test is more specific to lupus, which determines the antibodies produced by the immune system. A person with lupus will test positive for ANA. However, a positive result does not mean that the patient is suffering only from lupus.

Other tests that can be carried out include a chest X-ray, an echocardiogram, and a kidney biopsy.

Lupus can only be controlled using support medications to slow down organ damage and by practicing a healthy lifestyle. Having adequate rest, proper exercise, eating healthy, and being sun smart can help you cope with the disease.