8 Complications of Lupus

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Lupus, shorthand for systemic lupus erythematosus, is a chronic autoimmune disease. Women are affected more frequently than men. Because lupus can cause inflammation throughout your body, it’s possible the disease can damage various organs. This can cause many complications. Thankfully, having lupus doesn’t mean you will experience all of these problems. But you should be aware of potential complications, and talk with your doctor about any concerns.

  • 1.

    Kidneys

    Up to 40% of people with lupus develop kidney complications that require treatment. This happens when inflammation prevents your kidneys from effectively filtering waste and toxins out of your blood. Ask your doctor about regular screening tests for kidney issues. Treating problems early can prevent permanent kidney damage.

    kidney-disease-model-kidneys
  • 2.

    Heart

    Heart disease is a leading cause of death among people with lupus. Lupus can inflame the sac around your heart, causing sharp chest pain. Over time, inflammation can interfere with your heart’s ability to pump blood. Imaging tests can identify heart conditions caused by lupus.

    One female hand holding 3d printed human heart
  • 3.

    Lungs

    The most common way lupus affects your lungs is by causing inflammation in the lining of your chest cavity. This can trigger sudden, severe chest pain, especially when you breathe. It can also lead to shortness of breath. Having lupus can also put you at greater risk of developing pneumonia.

    doctor-reviewing-x-ray-of-lungs
  • 4.

    Skin

    About two-thirds of people with lupus develop some kind of skin problem. This may include a rash on your face, chest, arms, or legs that gets worse when exposed to sunlight. For help in treating skin issues, talk with a dermatologist and try to avoid direct sunlight and artificial ultraviolet light.

    skin rash
  • 5.

    Central Nervous System