Kidney inflammation, also called nephritis, may occur about five years after lupus develops. This is because chronic inflammation makes it more difficult for the kidneys to filter the waste and toxins from the blood, resulting in inflammation of the kidneys.
Nephritis symptoms are subtler than the physical symptoms of lupus. These symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- More concentrated urine, as well as blood in the urine
- Swelling in the lower extremities
- Pain in your side
- Having to urinate more than usual at night
Once lupus is diagnosed, kidney function is monitored to ensure that inflammation does not occur. Untreated nephritis can lead to end-stage renal disease.
Treatment: There are actually five different types of nephritis associated with lupus. The treatment will be tailored to the individual’s circumstances. However, common medications used to treat nephritis include corticosteroids, immunosuppressive medications, and medications used to prevent blood clots and antihypertensive medications.
Because lupus causes generalized inflammation of the body, the joints are also affected. This inflammation causes pain and stiffness – and the inflammation of the joints may even be visible!
Joint pain that is associated with lupus may be mild at first but may become more painful as the disease progresses. The pain may also wax and wane.
Treatment: Your physician will first suggest that you treat your pain with over-the-counter pain medications. NSAIDs can be particularly helpful because they reduce inflammation. A daily antimalarial medication is also helpful – an example is Plaquenil. Severe pain may be treated with corticosteroids and methotrexate.
Gastrointestinal symptoms are fairly common with lupus. Examples include heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Crohn’s, and colitis.
As with other body systems that are affected by lupus, the disease itself is what is causing the symptom. This means that the generalized inflammation is wreaking havoc on the GI system. However, sometimes the medications that are prescribed may be causing some of these symptoms.
Treatment: In general, your treatment will depend on the specific symptom/disease that you are suffering from. You can treat some of these gastrointestinal symptoms with over-the-counter antacids. You can also perform self-care measures, such as eating smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding beverages containing caffeine, and sitting upright after meals. For symptoms that persist, you should contact your physician.
Mouth sores are exceptionally common in people with lupus – they affect anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of all patients. Although not life-threatening or as painful as other lupus symptoms, they are just as bit as uncomfortable, troublesome, and annoying as other symptoms.
Lupus mouth sores are typically found on the roof of the mouth, although they can also be found on the lips, on the gums, and on the inside of the cheeks. They are bright red in color, with a white “halo” around the edge, and they may have white lines that radiate from the ulcer. These sores are typically not terribly painful, but some people may still experience discomfort.
Treatment: Treatment of mouth sores is aimed at reducing inflammation; a typical treatment is a topical steroid or even an injection into the lesion. Antimalarial medications are helpful for very resistant lesions. People with lupus who are susceptible to mouth ulcers should aim for prevention of ulcers recurring. Here are some tips from Kaleidoscope Fighting Lupus on the prevention of mouth sores:
- Reduce stress levels by doing relaxing activities such as yoga, meditating, reading, and swimming.
- Avoiding foods that may aggravate ulcers.
- Consume a balanced diet.
- Brush teeth gently with a soft toothbrush.
- See a dentist regularly.
- Take all lupus medications as prescribed and see your physician regularly.
It has been suggested that approximately half of people with lupus also are anemic. Anemia is defined as “a condition where the red blood cell count, iron count or hemoglobin is less than normal due to illness, inflammation, iron deficiency or loss of blood.” There are several types of anemia, and it is the most common type of blood disorder found in people with lupus.
So, why is anemia so common in people with lupus? Experts are not completely sure, but they surmise that it is due to one of the following reasons:
- Inflammation may cause a reduction in the ability to produce red blood cells.
- The kidneys are responsible for the production of erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. If the kidneys are inflamed, they may not be making enough erythropoietin.
- NSAIDs are used often for pain. Chronic NSAID use can lead to iron deficiency anemia due to bleeding. They can also cause bone marrow suppression in rare instances.
- Azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclophosphamide, medications that treat lupus, can cause loss of bone marrow.
Treatment: Treatment of anemia will depend on the type of anemia and the cause. Types of anemia are listed below:
- Iron-deficiency anemia: the most common type of anemia, it is caused by a shortage of iron in the body.
- Anemia of chronic disease: certain diseases can cause anemia because they interfere with the production of red blood cells – HIV/AIDS, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, myelofibrosis, and of course, lupus.
- Aplastic anemia: a life-threatening type of anemia, it is caused by the body not producing enough red blood cells.
- Sickle cell anemia: this type of anemia is inherited. Red blood cells change into a sickle shape and eventually due, which causes anemia.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia: when the body lacks vitamins such as B12 and folate, it is unable to produce red blood cells, resulting in anemia. This is typically the result of malnutrition.