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What are the Links Between Lupus and Vasculitis?

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health cover, explores the link between lupus and vasculitis.


What is Lupus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. It can cause:

  • Joint pain.
  • Fever.
  • Skin rashes.
  • Organ damage.


Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this rare autoimmune disease. It requires life-long management.


Little information is available about the impact of lupus in sub-Saharan Africa. It is most common in women — Often between the ages of 15 and 45.


How Can Lupus Lead To Vascular Disease?


Our bodies can fight bacteria and viruses. They produce an “army” of y-shaped proteins known as antibodies.


Our immune systems produce antibodies. Antibodies adhere to antigens, which are poisons, chemicals, or foreign harmful substances. Certain sections of your immune system then recognise and destroy these antigens. This is how we combat diseases.


But when you have lupus, your body cannot distinguish between “good” and “bad” substances. As a result, your body’s immune system starts to attack your tissues and organs.


Many different body parts are harmed during these attacks. That includes your blood vessels. The attacks can result in a potentially life-threatening condition known as vascular disease.


“Lupus can be challenging to diagnose. The symptoms often mimic other diseases,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


Hewlett continues to say that the onset of signs and symptoms of lupus may be:


Most patients with lupus have a moderate condition marked by flares. Signs and symptoms worsen for a while, then recover or even disappear for a time.


“If lupus is not diagnosed and treated, it can cause inflamed blood vessels. Some individuals will not become ill but will notice spots on their skin. That is a result of small vessels breaking and producing tiny areas of bleeding in the tissue. Others can be very ill with systemic symptoms and – in extreme cases – major organ damage.”


Possible Symptoms of Lupus

The manifestations and symptoms of lupus depend on the part of the body affected. These are the most prevalent indications and symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint ache, stiffness, and enlargement
  • Rash on the face that covers the cheekbones and bridge of the nose
  • Rashes elsewhere on the body that resembles a butterfly
  • Sun-induced skin lesions that occur or intensify
  • White or blue discolouration of the fingers and toes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of memory
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Seizures

Who is Affected by Vasculitis?

Studies show that 11 and 36% of lupus patients may develop vasculitis.


But it is difficult to determine who may develop blood vessel inflammation.


Here are factors that increase your risk of vascular disease:


  1. Your lupus is poorly managed.
  2. You suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high body mass index.
  3. You take a particular drug. Some medicines could create changes in your blood vessels. If this is the cause of your vasculitis, the inflammation should subside when you stop taking the drug. Several medications not generally prescribed for lupus have been related to vasculitis.


How to Identify Vasculitis

Your physician will search for indicators of inflammation and specific antibodies. They may test via:

Urine tests, blood tests, x-rays, and tissue sampling tests to look for red flags, including:

How Do You Treat Vascular Disease?

Your health care provider will recommend the best treatment. That will depend on your vascular disease and how severe it is.


Treatment options may include:



Steps you can take to prevent vascular diseases include:


  • Making healthy lifestyle changes. That includes eating a heart-healthy diet and getting more exercise
  • Not smoking. If you are already a smoker, talk to your health care provider for help finding the best way to quit.
  • Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check
  • If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar
  • Trying not to sit or stand for long periods. If you need to sit all day, get up and move around every hour or so.
  • If you are going on a long trip, you can also wear compression stockings and regularly stretch your legs.


Learn More: Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases

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