How does lupus affect the body?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack and inflame otherwise healthy tissues and organs. The heart is among the organs that can be damaged by this disease and heart disease is a primary cause of death among those with lupus. Lupus can cause inflammation of the heart and the tissues and support structure surrounding it. Additionally, those with lupus are at greater risk of developing hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). In fact, people with lupus develop atherosclerosis at a higher rate and much sooner than their peers who do not have lupus. To reduce the risk of heart disease, people with lupus need to maintain normal blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels and exercise regularly.

Kidney damage from lupus can be mild or severe. It can cause damage to the filtering units (glomeruli) of the kidney. Since these filtering units clear your blood of waste, damage to them can cause your kidneys to work poorly or not at all. About 90 percent of people with lupus will have some kidney damage, but only 2-3 percent actually develop kidney disease severe enough to require treatment.

Kidney disease from lupus may be silent and not cause any symptoms. However, you may have dark urine, flank pain, high blood pressure, weight gain from extra fluid as well as swelling around your eyes and in your hands and feet.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.