How Lupus Affects Your Body
- From Head to ToeLupus can affect nearly every part of your anatomy. As alarming as that may seem, there's a lot you can do to protect your health. Low-impact exercise like walking or swimming regularly, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, protecting your skin from the sun, and getting adequate rest all make a difference. Develop a strong relationship with your doctor so you can work together to create a treatment plan that is most effective for you.
- Nose and MouthAbout 95% of lupus patients develop sores or lesions inside their mouths or noses. You may also be more likely to experience recurrent canker sores than most people. Talk with your doctor if you develop canker sores. There are several different medications, such as topical corticosteroids, that can help.
- HeartHeart disease is a leading cause of death for people with lupus. Lupus can cause inflammation in certain areas of the heart that may lead to heart disease. The good news is that you can reduce your risk for heart attack by exercising regularly and quitting cigarettes if you smoke. In addition, your doctor may prescribe medications to address heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) SystemLupus can affect any part of the GI system, from your esophagus to your stomach to your intestines. You may develop digestive problems if your muscles aren't able to efficiently move waste through your intestines. Issues with the nervous system may also lead to irritable bowel syndrome.
- SkinGot a rash or a sore? Lupus causes skin disorders in about two-thirds of patients. And up to 70 percent of people with lupus are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) rays—exposure to sun or artificial fluorescent light makes their symptoms worse. Protect any exposed skin with sunscreen that contains a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above and blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
- BloodAbout half of people with active lupus have anemia, or too few red blood cells that shuttle oxygen throughout the body. You can also develop leukopenia, an abnormal lowering of your white blood cell count, thrombocytopenia, a decrease in the number of platelets that aid blood clotting, or thrombosis, which can cause dangerous blood clots.
- Reproductive SystemLupus pregnancies are always considered high-risk. That's because you may have an increased risk for miscarriage or delivering prematurely. However, working closely with your doctor, it's possible to deliver a normal, healthy baby.
- Muscles and JointsMost people with lupus will experience joint and/or muscle pain. Inflammation is the most common cause for muscle aches and pains. Lupus arthritis occurs when you feel pain, stiffness, swelling, and warmth in your joints. Pain and anti-inflammatory medications can help. Many patients also find relief with moist heat, such as taking a shower, acupuncture, gentle yoga, and chiropractic adjustments.
- BonesWhen you have lupus, you have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Lupus itself may up your risk. In addition, medications used to treat lupus, such as corticosteroids, can cause bone loss. Combat bone loss by getting adequate calcium and vitamin D in your diet, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding cigarettes.
- KidneysApproximately 40% of people with lupus will develop kidney complications. Notify your doctor if you experience swelling, especially in your feet, legs, fingers, or eyes; blood in your urine; or an increase in the frequency of urination, especially at night. These symptoms could signal inflammation in your kidneys that, if left untreated, can lead to kidney damage and kidney disease.
Lupus Symptoms from Head to Toe