Lupus and Osteoporosis
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, a disorder in which the body
attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. As a result, various parts of the
body - such as the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, and lungs - can become
inflamed and damaged. There are many different kinds of lupus. Systemic lupus
erythematosus (SLE) is the form of the disease that is commonly referred to as
People with lupus can have a wide range of symptoms. Some of
the most commonly reported symptoms are fatigue, painful or swollen joints,
fever, skin rashes, and kidney problems. Typically, these symptoms come and go.
When symptoms are present in a person with the disease, it is known as a flare.
When symptoms are not present, the disease is said to be in remission.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) at the National Institutes of Health,
90 percent of those diagnosed with lupus are women. The disease is three times
more common in black women than white women. Women of Hispanic, Asian, and
Native American descent are also at increased risk. Lupus typically appears in
people between the ages of 15 and 45. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become less
dense and more likely to fracture. Fractures from osteoporosis can result in
significant pain and disability. Osteoporosis is a major health threat for an
estimated 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women.
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:
- being thin or having a small frame
- having a family history of the disease
- for women, being postmenopausal, having an early menopause, or
not having menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
- using certain medications, such as glucocorticoids
- not getting enough calcium
- not getting enough physical activity
- drinking too much alcohol.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can often be prevented.
However, if undetected, it can progress for many years without symptoms until a
The Lupus - Osteoporosis Link
Studies have found an increase in bone loss and fracture in
individuals with SLE. In fact, women with lupus may be nearly five times more
likely to experience a fracture from osteoporosis.
Individuals with lupus are at increased risk for osteoporosis
for many reasons. To begin with, the glucocorticoid medications often
prescribed to treat SLE can trigger significant bone loss. In addition, pain
and fatigue caused by the disease can result in inactivity, further increasing
osteoporosis risk. Studies also show that bone loss in lupus may occur as a
direct result of the disease. Of concern is the fact that 90 percent of the
individuals affected with lupus are women, a group already at increased