How Does a Lupus Diagnosis Affect My Life Expectancy?

Lupus isn’t lethal

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s organs. In severe cases, organs damage and failure can occur. Over 90 percent of people with lupus are women between the ages of 15 and 45.

Historically, lupus caused people to die young, primarily from kidney failure. Today, with careful treatment, 80 to 90 percent of people with lupus can expect to live a normal lifespan.

“We have found that with treatment, Lupus patients are able to live longer,” said Dr. Olivia Ghaw, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in an interview with Healthline. “They are able to live with less disability and morbidity.”

Flares

Lupus commonly causes some amount of inflammation. Sometimes lupus can flare up, making symptoms worse. Flares can include joint pain, skin rash, and organ troubles, particularly in the kidneys.

Medication and lifestyle changes can control flares and prevent them from causing lasting organ damage. You’ll want to work closely with your doctor to address these symptoms.

Kidneys

Kidneys are the organs most commonly affected by lupus. Long-term inflammation in the kidneys causes damage. If enough of the kidney becomes scarred, it will begin to lose function.

By catching a flare-up early and treating it with the right medications, you can protect your kidneys from damage.

Heart

Now that severe lupus is treated aggressively, people are no longer dying from lupus itself or from kidney failure. However, people with lupus are still at increased risk of heart disease.

Lupus can cause inflammation of the heart, resulting in an increased rate of heart attacks and artery disease, even in young patients in their 20s. Inflammation of the lining around the heart can also cause chest pain (pericarditis).

Blood

People with lupus have a greater likelihood of developing anemia or blood clots. Some people with lupus also have antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS). APS increases the risk of developing blood clots and miscarriages.

Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body, including the lungs, legs, or even the brain.

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