The autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain and damage to the body.
"The systemic inflammation affects bone," Pisetsky said. Patients often are prescribed steroid medicine to relieve the inflammation, but the medicines can also affect bones adversely, he said.
Although the risk to bones in lupus patients is known, the new study teases out details on the type of fracture risk, Pisetsky said.
Treatments, especially the steroids, can affect the bones, said Dr. Joan Merrill, medical director of the Lupus Foundation of America and chairwoman of the clinical pharmacology research program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. "Steroids are also associated with increased risk for osteonecrosis [death of the bones], which literally can cause the hip joint and other joints to collapse," she said.
For those reasons, experts in recent years have been focusing on using the lowest dose possible of steroids to control symptoms, Pisetsky said.
Getting regular exercise can help too, he said. With age, lupus patients should try to preserve their balance, which also can reduce the risk of falls.
Study co-author Wang reported serving on advisory boards and receiving honoraria for speaking from several pharmaceutical companies. The study was funded by the Taiwan National Science Council, Taipei Veterans General Hospital and other institutions.