“You’ve got lupus!”

“I feel like I’d been kicked in the chest by a horse,” were the EXACT words I used to describe what I was feeling to my doctor. He ran every test known to God and man, and then a few more, and still came up empty-handed. Then one day, he had a suspicion of something, ran an EKG confirming an incredibly fast heart rate, my respiratory rate was fast, and my chest x-ray only confirmed what he suspected. I had a pleural effusion; from what he didn’t know, but the instructions were, “meet me at the hospital, do not go home and dilly dally and pack a bag, do not pass ‘go’ do not collect $200! I think you get the gist that he felt that my getting to the hospital was urgent!

Yes, I had a pleural effusion and I don’t know how much fluid was removed from the lining (pleura) of my lungs. Some of that fluid was cultured and from that the docs received their diagnosis. You have lupus. I didn’t know it, but my life had changed.

That’s how I received my diagnosis, and you? I’d love for you the share, with me and others who read here, how you received your diagnosis and what symptoms you experience most.

There are so many ways in which lupus manifests itself and in this post, we’ll concentrate on lupus involvement of the lungs. Patients may develop pleuritis, the most common manifestation of lupus in the lungs. Pleuritis is inflammation of the pleura, the external lining of the lung.

The most common symptoms of pleuritis are shortness of breath and a SHARP PAIN ON INSPIRATION. Sometimes, fluid accumulates in the pleura: pleurisy; also a very painful condition found in @ 50 % of patients with lupus.

Another condition, PNEUMONITIS is an inflammation of the lung tissue itself; inflammation that doesn’t involve the pleura. This only makes sense, because lupus is a disease of inflammation.

The cause of pneumonitis is often bacterial or viral or fungal, but most commonly bacterial or viral. When someone has pneumonitis and their lung tissue has accumulated  fluid and the lung cells exude this fluid, the condition is called pneumonia. The fluid is usually called phlegm and contributes to the signs of pneumonia.

Vasculitis is an autoimmune disease affecting the blood vessels.  When vasculitis causes lung problems, it is because the inflammation involved in vasculitis, ‘cuts off’ necessary blood supply (and blood carries oxygen and nutrients) to the lungs.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects lung function: the muscles involved in respiration are weakened and because of this weakness of the lung muscles, pneumonia is common in multiple sclerosis patients.

Because lupus patients are often immunocompromised, either BECAUSE THEY HAVE LUPUS, or for treatment they receive for their lupus, lupus patients can develop fungal infections of the lung and tuberculosis.

Pulmonary hypertension is another manifestation of pulmonary involvement of lupus as is Shrinking Lung Syndrome. Both involve considerable shortness of breath. For these two complications of lupus there is treatment, but not cure.

There are more pulmonary manifestations of lupus AND of autoimmunity but space limits me to coverage of the complications I have noted.

Bronchi, bronchial tree, and lungs.

Bronchi, bronchial tree, and lungs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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