The Many Faces Of Lupus

    Lupus and the Kidneys

    Kidney disease is one of the most common complications of lupus, especially among African-American women. “Between 40 and 70 percent of people with lupus will have some form of kidney involvement and it can range from very mild to severe,” Davis says. Davis says some warning signs of kidney problems in people with lupus are swelling of the legs, frequent urination, especially at night, and high blood pressure. Many people with lupus, however, don’t show symptoms even when they have failing kidneys, so Davis recommends routinely testing blood and urine to catch kidney involvement in the earliest stages.

    Lupus and the Heart

    Two main types of heart conditions develop as a result of living with lupus. One is inflammation of the sack surrounding the heart and another is coronary artery disease which is narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to the heart.

    Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s also the third leading cause of death in people with lupus after complications of kidney disease and infection, according to Wallace. The difference between coronary artery disease in people with lupus and those without lupus is that those who live with lupus develop the heart condition earlier in life.

    One way for people living with lupus to take care of their heart is to check their cholesterol regularly, says Davis, especially if the lupus has already affected their kidneys because then they’re more likely to have high cholesterol. “Keep your blood pressure under control, watch your weight, lower your cholesterol and exercise,” says Davis about heart disease prevention for people with lupus. “It’s the same prevention that you’d do for heart disease in people without lupus but you do it at an younger age and have a lower threshold for evaluating possible heart problems.”

    Reading about lupus and the complications it can bring may sound disheartening to people living with the disease and others who are just finding out about it. There is good news though and that is that most people with lupus have only a mild form of lupus with no life-threatening consequences or major organ complications, Davis says. For those with severe lupus, research offers encouragement. “The good news about severe lupus is that many drugs are currently under investigation and they may be safer and more targeted to specific causes of lupus,” Davis says.

     

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