Not only does lupus cause a multitude of horrible symptoms that can make even just getting out of bed difficult, it also produces a number of more severe long-term effects. Historically, lupus has significantly shortened the lifespan of its victims. Since the 1980s there have been great improvements made in this area with more individuals now surviving 10 to 20 years after diagnosis. However, lupus continues to have an impact on mortality with 82% of people surviving 10 years after diagnosis and only 68% surviving 20 years. The most common cause of death brought on by lupus has been found to be due to infection and this is closely followed by heart disease. However, these are not the only long term effects that people with diagnosis of lupus have to be concerned about. Below, we discuss some of these long-term impacts.
Internal organ damage
The most commonly implicated organ in lupus is the kidneys. After long periods and consistent inflammation, the kidneys can develop scarring and this makes it difficult for them to filter the body effectively. Historically, people experiencing lupus would have a shorter life span because this kidney damage would become so severe. However, today through careful management and the correct medications, severe kidney damage can be avoided in most cases.
Unfortunately, the medical field has not made quite as many advances in the effect of lupus on the heart. People experiencing lupus are at a higher risk of heart attack and heart disease than their healthy counterparts. This heart disease is not only limited to the older individuals with lupus but can have an impact on those as young as in their 20’s. Risk factors in developing heart disease with lupus include being older when you are diagnosed, experiencing lupus for a long period of time, longer use of steroid medications, high blood pressure, and obesity. It is believed that it’s the impact of ongoing inflammation has on the blood vessels within the heart that really connects heart disease and lupus, but the researchers are still debating this.
Other organs impacted by lupus include the lungs and the brain. The lungs can become scarred from the consistent inflammation and this can cause sharp pains in the chest when inhaling and decrease the level of oxygen that can be absorbed into the body. Whereas long-term effects on the brain can include memory loss, headaches, problems with concentration, seizures, and even cause coma.
Muscles, bones, and joints
One of the most common symptoms of lupus is a stiffness and soreness in the muscles and joints. The inflammation in these areas can cause arthritis and this can result in significant pain that can make it difficult to complete daily tasks.
Osteoporosis is also something that has been found to be brought on through lupus. This is where the bones become more brittle and fractures can be obtained easily. This again can have a significant impact on daily life.
Experiencing a chronic illness with painful symptoms that restrict everyday life not only impacts your health but also your mental health. It can be isolating to suffer the symptoms of lupus as it can feel as though family and friends “just don’t understand”. Over time, this can have a significant impact on mood, cause anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide. It is important that if you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health, you have a good support group around you and are able to share your thoughts with someone who you trust. Head on over to our page (about keeping your spirits up when suffering from lupus) for further details on how to manage your mental health when experiencing the ongoing anguish that is lupus.
For further details about the long-term impact of lupus, please see the links below.