Can systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have any complications?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Complications of systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, include damage to the kidneys and even kidney failure. Anemia and other blood problems, such as bleeding, blood clotting or vessel inflammation, may develop. Pleurisy, or inflammation of the membrane around the lungs, can occur. SLE can affect the heart, leading to heart disease, atherosclerosis, inflammation of the heart muscle, membranes or blood vessels, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Systemic lupus erythematosus can damage your central nervous system, leading to headaches, impaired thinking, hallucinations, personality changes, seizures and psychoses. SLE can diminish the supply of blood to bones, leading to tissue death. If you have systemic lupus erythematosus, you are more likely to succumb to common infections and lymphatic cancers. If you are a woman, SLE can raise your risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Regular exercise is a very important part of coping with SLE. Exercise can help reduce your risk of complications, including heart disease. You should try to exercise for 30 minutes each day. You can split this exercise up into smaller chunks of time if necessary. Stay indoors if you are experiencing a flare-up of SLE symptoms. If you feel too fatigued to exercise, rest.

Certain prescription drugs can trigger the onset of SLE symptoms. Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, tuberculosis and psychoses can all cause SLE symptoms to appear. Those who have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus seem to be at a higher risk for developing SLE. Surgery can be dangerous if you have systemic lupus erythematosus. SLE also causes complications in pregnancy.

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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.