Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) Health (cont.)

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Complications of Lupus

While it usually is not, lupus can be organ-threatening. For example, lupus can lead to complications of kidney failure, brain damage, scarring of skin, and eye injury. Moreover, the medications used to control lupus can sometimes lead to organ injury or lead to infection because of suppression of the natural immune system. Steroid use is associated with a number of complications, including psychiatric disturbances, increased susceptibility to infection, fragile bones, cataract formation, diabetes and worsening of existing diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, thinning of the skin, puffiness of the face, and avascular necrosis of joints.

There is a much higher occurrence of complications of lupus in pregnancy, especially if the kidneys are involved by the disease or if the disease is active. Women whose lupus has been inactive for six to 12 months are more likely to have a successful pregnancy. In addition, antibodies formed in the mother that are transferred from mother to fetus can occasionally affect the infant, leading to rashes, low blood counts, or more seriously a slow heart rate due to complete heart block (neonatal lupus). For these reasons, all women with lupus who are or who desire to become pregnant should consult with their treating rheumatologist or other treating physicians and should be referred for "high-risk" obstetric care.

Lupus Prognosis

The prognosis varies depending on whether there is serious organ inflammation (for example kidney or brain involvement).

Many lupus patients have very limited disease and live relatively normal lives with minimal problems. Others have multiorgan involvement with kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes. The diversity of outcomes reflects the diversity of the disease.

With respect to fertility, women with lupus are just as capable of becoming pregnant and having children as the general population.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/8/2014

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Lupus - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of lupus can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
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Lupus (Systemic Lupus) - Prevention Question: What prevention measures do you use to avoid getting lupus flares?