Autoimmune diseases and disorders are chronic, life-long conditions causing pain and swelling in the joints, fevers, fatigue, abnormal blood counts, and a general malaise, among other conditions. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is one of the first conditions to come to mind when discussing autoimmune problems. Arthritis is not necessarily an autoimmune disease, although there are forms of arthritis that are autoimmune conditions. Is there a connection between lupus and arthritis?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when a person’s immune system goes out of kilter and starts attacking the host body instead of foreign invaders. There are four distinct types of the disease:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), is the primary form of lupus, and the most serious. It has a genetic tendency; parents with lupus have a five percent chance of having a child with lupus, and adults with lupus have a twenty percent chance of having a parent or sibling who already has the disease, or who may develop the disease in the future.
Lupus is difficult to diagnose. It is called the ‘great imitator’ disease, as its symptoms may occur in many other, more common conditions, including arthritis. Lupus is, like most diseases, individualistic in nature – symptoms can be different from one person to another, and they may not be chronic, but relapse-remitting in nature. The vast majority of lupus patients experience joint pain and swelling, but so do arthritis patients; making a diagnosis of lupus from one symptom is practically impossible. Other symptoms of lupus include fatigue, unexplained fever, hair loss, swollen lymph nodes, photo-sensitivity, mouth sores and skin rashes. Discoid lupus presents mainly in the skin, with rashes and scarring.
Lupus affects primarily females, in the twenty to forty years of age bracket. Lupus occurs in females six to ten times more often than in males.
Arthritis, from the Greek arthro, meaning joint, and itis, meaning inflammation, is a chronic condition affecting the joints with inflammation, pain, stiffness, and gradual destruction of the joint. There are over 100 forms of arthritis, but the most common ones are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and septic arthritis. Arthritis as a whole is not an autoimmune disorder, but rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are known autoimmune diseases.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it occurs as we age. It can also occur after injuries. Osteoarthritis is marked by the wearing away of the cartilage inside the joint, gradually leaving bone grating on bone. When this happens, any remaining cartilage hardens, and bone spurs can develop. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the joint can be come inflamed as they try to compensate for the weakened joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, affecting the synovial linings and cavities of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis inflames the synovial lining, causing pain and swelling in the joint. While osteoarthritis typically affects one joint out of a bilaterally symmetrical pair, rheumatoid arthritis will affect both joints at once, and usually more than one pair at a time.
Psoriatic arthritis occurs in approximately fifteen percent of patients with psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system begins attacking the skin. Everyone with psoriasis will not get psoriatic arthritis; however, there does appear to be a genetic link, so if a relative with psoriasis develops psoriatic arthritis, chances are other family members will also. Psoriatic arthritis affects men and women equally, usually in the thirty to fifty age bracket, although children may contract it.
Is there a connection between Lupus and Arthritis?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as is rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Patients with lupus may develop arthritis, and those with arthritis may develop lupus. However, lupus patients who develop osteoarthritis have no real connection to the disease, other than aging. Lupus patients who develop an autoimmune form of arthritis may have a genetic connection; research has indicated a specific gene mutation may be involved. The research is in its early phases, so reliable results and tests for the specific mutation are far down the road. Suffice it to say one autoimmune disorder may beget another one, as the body’s immune system has gone hyperactive.
If you have lupus, will you develop rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis? You might. If you have rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, will you develop lupus? Again, you might. While research is indicating a specific genetic mutation may be present when a lupus patient develops an autoimmune form of arthritis, and vice versa, it’s too soon to know the specifics of how the mutation will affect most people, and it’s certainly too soon for reliable genetic testing. Just know if you have one autoimmune disorder, you are probably prone to contracting another one.