Yikes, lupus can affect my heart?

It sounds a bit scary, that something affects the core of my being, my heart, my pump. Unfortunately, lupus is a multi-system illness and it doesn’t spare your heart. That said, most who are diagnosed with lupus don’t have any involvement of their heart.

The effects of lupus on the heart are often the result of inflammation of various areas of the heart. For example, inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium) is called pericarditis, the most common way in which lupus affects the heart. Symptoms of pericarditis include pain that can mimic a heart attack, shortness of breath and a pericardial friction rub. The friction rub is the sound you hear when the layers of the pericardium ‘rub’ together.

Inflammation of the middle layer of the heart muscle, the myocardium, is called myocarditis. The same as inflammatory cardiomyopathy, symptoms include chest pains, rapid and irregular heart rate, and fatigue: They can progress to heart failure, so prompt medical treatment is necessary

The endocardium is the innermost layer of the heart muscle and it also provides lining for the heart valves, too. These inflamed heart valves can thicken, forming lesions. The lesions can dislodge and if they travel to the lungs, a dangerous pulmonary embolism can result. Or if they travel to the brain, they can cause a stroke.

In addition to endocardial inflammation, endocardial infection (an infection of the valves) may be quite serious and life threatening. It is highly recommended that lupus patients have treatment with preventive antibiotics before dental work to prevent endocarditis.

It is not uncommon for lupus patients to have disturbances in their heart rhythm. There can also be hypertension resulting from lupus nephritis or steroid treatment.

Lupus also increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). How? Lupus patients are more likely to have hypertension from lupus nephritis. Often treated with steroids, steroids also elevate cholesterol levels so more plaque is laid down in the coronary arteries. The laying down of plaque is part and parcel of coronary artery disease.

Because of fatigue and pain, lupus patients may live a sedentary lifestyle. This sedentary lifestyle is another contributing factor to the development of CAD. For this, and the above reasons, a cardiologist should evaluate all lupus patients.

There is another way in which lupus causes CAD. Lupus can also elevate the ‘bad’ cholesterol; or LDL as well as lowering the ‘good’ cholesterol-HDL

Because lupus can cause  heart disease and stroke, it has been thought by many to begin treatment with statins. However, until researchers know more about WHY lupus patients are at a greater risk of heart disease or stroke, statins aren’t automatically prescribed.

So, there you have it, what ‘can’ be expected and what likely WON’T happen. “Knowledge is power!”

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13 thoughts on “Yikes, lupus can affect my heart?

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    • Adele, I am SOOOOO sorry to get back to you so late. How do I learn this info? I’m a nurse, so infer a lot but also research the hows and the whys. Good resources are the lupusassociation.org and the SLE Lupus Foundation. I am SOO sorry, WP is supposed to notify me of all comments and I received none.! Annie

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