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Serious Conditions Associated with Lupus

Although lupus can be well controlled in many people, serious medical conditions caused by or associated with the disease can still occur. It is important that you know about these conditions and how they may make you feel so that you can call your doctor right away. The sooner a problem is detected and evaluated, the sooner it can be treated to prevent or reduce damage to your body's organs.

Kidney disease: Many people with lupus develop some form of mild kidney disease. Others, however, develop kidney disease serious enough to lead to kidney failure. Warning signs include:

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  • swelling around your ankles, hands, and eyes
  • increased fatigue or tiredness, especially if you have not altered your rest and activity patterns
  • increased need to urinate at night

Pericarditis: Pericarditis is an inflammation of the thin sac that surrounds the heart. Warning signs include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • new or higher-than-usual fever

Myocarditis: Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. Warning signs include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • new or higher-than-usual fever

Atherosclerosis: This is a condition in which fatty deposits build up on the inside of arteries. These deposits can reduce or block blood flow. A blockage or reduced blood flow through an artery that supplies the heart can cause a heart attack to occur. Warning signs include:

  • burning, choking, squeezing, or pressing chest pain felt in the center of the chest that may radiate to the left shoulder and arm (anginal pain); it can last up to 5 minutes and will become much less intense or go away completely if you rest
  • crushing, prolonged chest pain that is not relieved by rest
  • shortness of breath
  • unrelieved indigestion
  • a weak or faint feeling

Pleuritis: Pleuritis is an inflammation of the lining of the lung. Warning signs include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain, especially when taking a deep breath

Central nervous system (CNS) disease: CNS disease covers a variety of problems that may or may not be related to lupus. Problems can include seizures, memory loss, headache, confusion, hearing and visual changes, muscle weakness, depression, and emotional disturbances. Because many of these problems can be related to use of medications or indicate other conditions, it is often difficult to make a definite diagnosis of CNS disease. Warning signs include:

  • severe or chronic headaches
  • seizures
  • periods of forgetfulness, restlessness, or confusion
  • new or increased hearing and vision problems
  • bizarre or erratic changes in behavior
  • mood swings
  • signs of a stroke, including weakness or numbness in the arms, legs, face, or down one side of the body; a change in speech; confusion; or severe headaches

Depression: With depression, people may feel helpless, hopeless, or overwhelmed. They may find it difficult to get through the day. Depression can occur as a result of lupus or be caused by the drugs used to treat it, especially cortico-steroids. Warning signs include:

  • depressed mood
  • significant weight loss or gain
  • trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • extreme tiredness and lack of energy
  • decreased concentration or an inability to make a decision
  • feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to carry out simple tasks, such as personal hygiene, housework, or childcare
  • feelings of hopelessness about various aspects of life
  • unusual anger or irritability
  • recurrent thoughts of death and suicide

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

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