Complications: Complications from the inflammation lupus causes can affect any number of areas in your body, including your skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood, and brain. Lupus can also raise your risk for other problems.
Skin: There are skin diseases and complications that can occur in lupus and in other autoimmune diseases. These include:
- Hair loss
- Calcinosis (calcium deposits on the skin)
- Livedo reticularis (a red, network-like pattern in the skin caused by congested blood vessels)
Kidneys: Inflammation of the kidneys in lupus patients is called lupus nephritis. Lupus nephritis can lead to kidney failure in some people and is a serious, initially silent, complication affecting lupus patients.
Blood: As noted above, lupus can lead to anemia and blood clotting problems, but it can also cause inflammation in the lining of your blood vessels, called vasculitis. This appears as red bumps or spots on your lower legs.
Heart and Lungs: There are several inflammatory heart and lung issues that can affect lupus patients. By far, the most common include
- Inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericarditis)
- Inflammation of the lining of the lung (pleuritis)
Less common complications include:
- Inflammation of heart tissue (myocarditis)
- Inflammation of the blood vessels in the heart (coronary vasculitis)
- Inflammation of the lung itself (pneumonitis)
Brain: Lupus can affect your central nervous system, leading to memory problems, difficulty expressing yourself, and confusion. Other potential effects are headaches, problems with your vision, behavior changes, dizziness, psychosis, and even seizures or stroke.
Infection: Because lupus is an autoimmune disorder, you’re more susceptible to pick up infections and have complications from them due to both the disorder and the treatments for it. This is particularly true of respiratory, skin, and urinary infections.
Bones: When part of a bone’s blood supply is cut off, that area of the bone dies and eventually collapses (avascular necrosis). Osteoporosis, a disease in which your bones become weak and brittle, is another common complication of lupus.
Cancer: The risk is small, but having lupus may increase your chance of developing cancer.
Pregnancy: If you get pregnant while you have lupus, you’re more likely to have a miscarriage, high blood pressure during your pregnancy, and pre-term birth. Having your disease under control before you get pregnant helps reduce this risk, so if you think you might have lupus, see your doctor before you become pregnant.
Nervous system problems
Neurological (nervous system) problems associated with lupus include:
- Mild memory loss, trouble concentrating, and errors in insight and judgment.
- Headaches, which are common but are usually related to stress and tension. Migraine headaches occur in many people who have lupus.
- Nervous system problems that cause vision disturbance, dizziness, muscle weakness in the face, arms, or legs, or loss of temperature or pain sensation in the feet, hands, arms, or legs (cranial or peripheral neuropathy).
- Seizures. They may be caused by problems with blood pressure, infections, or inflammation in blood vessels in the brain.
- Strokes, ranging from mild to severe.
Mental health problems
The physical and emotional stress of coping with a chronic illness can make it difficult to maintain good mental health.
- Many people with lupus become anxious, depressed, or both.
- Psychosis, a mental-behavioral disorder in which a person may have delusions (firmly held but false beliefs) or hallucinations (false perceptions) or both, is seen in some people who have lupus. It can be caused by the disease or by medicines such as tranquilizers, corticosteroids, or opioid pain relievers.
- Manic behavior, including unusually high levels of energy and activity, difficulty sleeping, and irritability, can occur as a result of corticosteroid treatment for lupus. It is usually not serious and goes away when the medicine is discontinued.
Digestive system problems
Problems in the digestive system are not common with lupus but may include:
- Abdominal (belly) pain, often with nausea and vomiting.
- Enlargement of the liver.
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
- Inflammation of the sac surrounding the intestines (peritonitis).
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Dry mouth.