Complications of Lupus - Topic Overview
affect many people who have lupus.
These problems usually don't cause any symptoms, but some people may
notice swelling in their legs or ankles (due to fluid retention) that they have
not had in the past. The first sign of kidney problems is often abnormal
urinalysis findings, such as protein, blood, or white
blood cells in the urine or granular or red cell casts (clumps of red blood
cells or kidney cells).
In a few cases, kidney
problems are so severe that the kidneys stop working properly or fail
completely. Depending on how severe kidney damage is, treatment can include
strong medicines to control the lupus,
kidney dialysis, or a kidney transplant.
Heart problems caused by lupus
- Inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis). This is the most common lupus-related heart
- Hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the heart
muscle. People with lupus are at increased
risk for plaque deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) that may cause coronary artery
disease. They are also likely to develop plaque deposits at an earlier age than
people who do not have lupus.
- Diseases of the heart valves. A few people
with lupus may have slightly thickened heart valves, which makes them more
susceptible to infections of the damaged valves (endocarditis),
blood clots, or
heart failure. Some people with damaged heart valves
may need surgery to replace the valves.
- Inflammation of the heart
muscle (myocarditis), which is uncommon but may lead to
problems with the heartbeat or heart muscle. The heart may beat too fast, too
slow, or irregularly.
About 1 out of 3 people who have lupus develop
inflammation of the tissue around the lungs.1
Sometimes this causes no symptoms. At other times it causes painful
breathing, coughing, or chest pain that is worse with a deep breath (pleurisy). Many people with lupus have chest pain when
they breathe. When this pain is not caused by pleurisy, it is commonly caused
by inflammation of the chest muscle, cartilage, or ligaments, or of the joints
that connect the ribs to the breastbone (costochondral joints). In these cases,
the lungs may not be affected.
Less common lung problems
with lupus include fever, cough, and inflammation of the lung tissue
(acute lupus pneumonitis). Some people with lupus produce an antibody that
causes their blood to clot more easily (antiphospholipid antibody). These people may be at risk for clots
in the lung (pulmonary emboli). An unusual
complication is the buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), caused by heart or kidney problems.