Lupus is a disease of the skin or mucous membranes, most commonly distinguished by tissue inflammation, skin rashes or skin sores. While lupus can create external symptoms, it can also affect the internal organs. Pericarditis and lupus patients need to be especially careful with their health and treatment plan.
Lupus patients are especially sensitive to the sun and other forms of ultraviolet light, which can trigger skin rashes in the areas exposed to sunlight and may worsen other lupus symptoms as well.
Women Are More Affected By Pericarditis And Lupus
Statistics show that nine out of ten lupus patients are women. While most people affected with lupus are able to continue their usual daily activities, complications can arise as a result of inflammation, fatigue and other symptoms. If complications arise, patients must consult their doctors; complications from SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) affecting the heart are common in lupus patients.
Systemic (SLE) is an autoimmune disease, which means that it causes the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the tissues of the carrier.
In some cases, lupus can trigger the inflammation of the thin sac surrounding the heart, known as the pericardium. When this happens, the condition is called pericarditis or lupus pericarditis. Lupus patients tend to develop pericarditis more than any other disease related to the heart. This is due to the antigen-antibody complexes that are produced during active lupus.
This condition occurs when antigen-antibody complexes – also known as immune complexes – are made during active lupus and cause inflammation within the pericardium. While those with mild cases of pericarditis often improve through their body’s own natural recovery process, the same is not true for lupus patients. For lupus patients, the symptoms of pericarditis will last longer, and may not heal on their own.
A doctor will have to first verify that there is no underlying condition that could be the cause of pericarditis symptoms. For patients that have yet to be diagnosed with lupus, symptoms of pericarditis could be an indicator. Since the causes of pericarditis are often hard to determine, testing for lupus could provide an explanation.
The medications that are used to treat moderate to severe lupus have side effects, so it can be difficult to determine what symptoms are caused by the disease and what symptoms are caused by the medication.
Symptoms of lupus pericarditis include:
- Sharp, stabbing chest pain right behind the breastbone or on the left side of your chest
- Pain that intensifies when lying flat or inhaling deeply
- Pain that eases when sitting up or leaning forward
- Shortness of breath
- Low-grade fever
- Fatigue or feeling sick
- Dry cough
- A rubber sound in the chest region where the heart is located
- Abdominal or leg swelling
Possible Tests Your Doctor May Order
To determine the cause of your pericarditis and determine whether lupus is the underlying cause, your physician will conduct one or more of these tests:
- Medical history and physical exam
- Chest X-ray
- CT-Scan (computerized tomography)
- Magnetic resonance imaging
Treating Patients With Pericarditis And Lupus
Pericarditis in lupus patients is typically treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. If this treatment does not improve the condition of the patient, corticosteroid treatment is used for a short length of time.
This treatment is often very short – stopped right after the patient begins to show signs of improvement – to avoid complications that may arise from using corticosteroids. Pericarditis and Lupus patients who have symptoms of large or loculated pericardial effusions may also need to undergo pericardial drainage.
However, this treatment is rare and only necessary when the fluid results in impaired cardiac function. Those with severe lupus may also benefit from drugs that suppress the immune system.
Pericarditis And Lupus Patients With Thickened Heart Valves
In some lupus cases, the patient may have slightly thickened heart valves. This makes the patient more susceptible to infection of the damaged valves (endocarditis), blood clots or heart problems – one of which being pericarditis.
Inflammation of the heart muscle can also occur – known as myocarditis – which is uncommon but can lead to complications with the heartbeat or heart muscle. Those who have damaged heart valves may need surgery to replace the valves.
Importance of Diet And Patients with Pericarditis And Lupus
Significant improvement has been shown in patients with pericarditis and lupus who have made beneficial changes their lifestyle. Through a combination of exercise and a healthy diet, patients suffering from this disease can stop the recurrence of symptoms.
By reducing stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Pericarditis and Lupus patients can prevent the recurrence of a lupus flare. Simple changes such as avoiding long exposure to sunlight can reduce the amount of antigen-antibody complexes that are produced during active lupus.
A Diagnosis of Pericarditis and Lupus
In the past, lupus was not a very well-known condition. Because of this, medicine used to treat this illness was not readily available. This is partly due to the lack of in-depth knowledge of the immune system, since people weren’t as familiar with what the immune system should attack and what it shouldn’t.
Those patients who were affected by lupus died at a younger age, due to complications of the vital organs such as the heart. Since medical knowledge has progressed significantly since the early years of this disease, effective treatments are widely available. Due to the rise in effective medications, the life expectancy of those diagnosed with Pericarditis and lupus, or lupus pericarditis as it is also known has increased significantly.
Life Expectancy In Pericarditis And Lupus Diagnosis
According to recent statistics, up to 90% of patients with lupus live at least 5 years after diagnosis, and 70% live up to at least 20 years after diagnosis. Lupus typically develops in people between the ages 0f 15 and 45, although it can occur in older individuals as well. Because of this, it is recommended to visit your doctor for annual checkups, regardless of whether or not you are in the affected age range and are experiencing any symptoms.
For more information and images about Pericarditis and Lupus, take a look at this slideshow about lupus .