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Living with Lupus: Understanding Your Risk of Health Complications 

Living with Lupus: Understanding Your Risk of Health Complications 

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans. If you have lupus, your immune system erroneously attacks healthy tissues and organs in your body, including your skin, your brain, and your kidneys.

Although there’s no cure for lupus, you can manage the disease to minimize the risk of life-threatening complications. Thanks to early diagnosis and better disease management strategies, about 85-90% of people with lupus can expect to live out a normal lifespan. 

At the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey, our board-certified rheumatologists, Ahmed M. Abdel-Megid, MD, and Amanda Borham, MD, encourage you to take charge of your lupus with lifestyle changes. We also monitor your disease and adjust medications to help you live long and happily with your disease.

Because lupus affects your entire body, just about any organ can be affected and damaged during a flare. Which organs are most at risk depends partly on the type of lupus you have.

Systemic lupus

About 70% of those with lupus have systemic lupus. If you’re among them, you have about a 50% chance of developing a complication in a major organ, such as:


Many cases of lupus are first diagnosed when abnormalities are identified during a standard urinalysis. You may also notice swelling in your legs or ankles due to fluid buildup. Eventually, you may need dialysis or a kidney transplant.


Lupus may cause headaches or migraines. You could also have brain fog or memory problems. You’re at increased risk for a seizure or stroke, too. 

Cardiovascular system 

Lupus can change the way your blood cells are shaped and how they function. Results could include anemia and clotting malfunctions. You’re at increased risk for heart inflammation, damaged heart valves, and atherosclerosis.


About 1 in 3 people with lupus have inflamed lung tissue. This may also cause chest pain when you breathe. 


Get your annual flu shots, pneumonia vaccines, and Td/Tdap vaccine. Some other vaccines may not be safe for you. Take extra precautions during flu season or during a surge in the pandemic because your weakened immune system is more at risk for serious complications from an infection.


Your risk for certain types of cancer slightly increases with lupus.  


Lupus may cut off the blood supply to your bones. Your bones then weaken and may develop hairline fractures that could cause collapse or breakage.

Cutaneous lupus

One form of lupus only affects the skin. About 10% of women and men with lupus have cutaneous lupus. You may develop rashes, including the classic butterfly rash across your nose and cheeks. You may also experience dry eyes. If you have discoid skin lesions, they rarely develop into cancer.

Modify your lifestyle

To increase your lifespan and health, it’s even more important for you to take charge of your health than it is for an average woman or man. Lupus taxes your body, since it’s frequently in a state of attack and inflammation.

Healthy lifestyle choices, though, help support your immune system and protect your organs. Adopt the following practices to help reduce your risk of complications and to protect your health as well as your lifespan:

If you have trouble making changes to your lifestyle, consider a health buddy who can make the same changes at the same time. 

Since the lifestyle changes that protect you from lupus complications also reduce the overall risk of disease, any friend or family member would benefit from following your lead.

Get the help you need

Lupus is a serious, life-threatening disease. You don’t have to feel alone in dealing with it. Our skilled rheumatologists help you make the lifestyle changes you need to manage lupus. 

We also monitor your symptoms and disease progression and adjust your medications accordingly. In addition to prescribing disease-modifying agents, we also treat or refer you for complications of lupus, including high blood pressure, infections, or high cholesterol.

To get help with lupus and minimize your risk for complications, contact us today by phone or online form at our office nearest you, in Monroe, Flemington, or Somerville, New Jersey.

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