When you have lupus, your body’s immune system, which usually attacks “invaders” like infections, begins to attack healthy tissue instead. Because any part of your body can be attacked, there are many different complications that can occur. Here are some of the more common ones.
One of the most serious complications from lupus is lupus nephritis, which affects kidney function and can lead to kidney failure. While lupus nephritis can’t be prevented, regular check ups and keeping an eye out for symptoms can catch it, allowing your doctor to treat the problem as early as possible. Symptoms include:
- Blood in the urine
- Foamy urine
- High blood pressure
- Edema, or swelling, particularly in the hands and feet
Lupus can affect the blood. It can clot too easily, which can cause blockages in the blood vessels, or it can be “too thin” and not clot well. Blood clots are most common in the legs (DVT or deep vein thrombosis) or in the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
Signs of a DVT include:
- Pain at the spot of the clot and beneath it
- Redness and warmth at the spot where the clot is
Signs of a pulmonary embolism include:
- Chest pain
- Pain worsens when taking a deep breath
- Coughing (may cough up blood)
- Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
- Rapid heart beat
If your doctor thinks that you are at risk for a DVT or a pulmonary embolism, he or she may recommend that you take blood thinners. It will be important to be sure that you don’t sit still for too long without exercising your legs, such as on a long flight. Getting up and walking around helps the blood circulate. Your doctor may also suggest that you wear compression socks or stockings to help stimulate blood flow.
Strokes can be caused by clots blocking blood flow to the brain or from bleeding into the brain. For this reason, some people with lupus may have strokes.
If you have any signs of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a mini-stroke, you should seek immediate medical help. Signs and symptoms are:
Paralysis on one side, such as weakness on one side of the face, an arm and/or leg
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty seeing
- Sudden, severe headache
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