Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lupus Health Center

Font Size

Flesh-Eating Bacteria and Lupus

Necrotizing Fasciitis: Infection Risk From Lupus Itself, Lupus Treatment

Is a person with lupus at increased risk of infection with flesh-eating bacteria?

Yes, for two reasons.

First, lupus itself makes a person more likely to get all kinds of infections, from colds to skin wounds.

That's ironic, because lupus itself is caused by a hyperactive immune system that turns against a person's own body. But the disease also involves a defective immune response to bacteria and to viruses.

The second reason is that immunity-suppressing drugs really help people with lupus.

"But patients pay a price: side effects. And the most common side effect is infection," Putterman says. "Lupus drugs suppress the same immune responses needed to protect you against foreign invaders such as bacteria."

Are people with lupus at higher risk of necrotizing fasciitis than other people with immune suppression?

That's not yet clear, because infection with flesh-eating bacteria is so rare. But Putterman's team was able to find eight cases in lupus patients at a single hospital.

This suggests "that a heightened awareness is warranted, particularly among lupus patients who are immunosuppressed by virtue of their underlying disease, the therapy they require, or both," Putterman and colleagues write in their report.

I have lupus. What can I do to cut my risk of infection with flesh-eating bacteria?

Over time, a person with lupus may have fewer or more symptoms. This means that a person with lupus doesn't always need the same dose of immune-suppressing drugs.

It's extremely important for lupus patients to regularly see a doctor with experience treating the disease. With regular checkups, lupus patients can be sure they are getting the right dose of medication.

Too much medication puts a lupus patient at risk of infection from unnecessary immune suppression. Too little medication puts a lupus patient at risk of infection from unnecessarily severe disease.

"If you get regular follow-up with a doctor who treats lupus, they would make sure you are getting the specific amount of treatment you need for your disease and no more," Putterman says. "We constantly battle to find the most effective dose of medication without over-suppressing the immune system."

Today on WebMD

grocery shopping list
And the memory problems that may come with it.
Lupus rash on nails
A detailed, visual guide.
sunburst filtering through leaves
You might be extra sensitive to UV light. Read on.
fruit drinks
For better focus in your life.
Woman rubbing shoulder
Bag of cosmetics
young woman hiding face
pregnant woman
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Young adult couple
doctor advising patient
sticky notes on face

WebMD Special Sections