8 Serious Health Complications of Lupus (and How to Protect Yourself)

8 Serious Health Complications of Lupus (and How to Protect Yourself)

Lupus is a disorder of your immune system that causes it to attack healthy organs, blood vessels, and other tissues that make up your body. Lupus often doesn’t have symptoms until organ damage is already underway.

If you have lupus, the more you know about your disease, the better you can reduce flares and prevent organ damage that could create serious complications. 

In addition to making lifestyle changes that support your immune system, identifying your particular triggers and working with a physician who specializes in lupus can help slow your disease. 

Kimberly Bolling, MD, is a knowledgeable and caring internist who specializes in diagnosing and treating lupus at her Bowie, Maryland, office. If you have lupus, you must take your disease seriously and do all you can to prevent it from progressing and causing life-threatening complications.

Even if you have only intermittent symptoms, Dr. Bolling and our team support you in making lifestyle changes that can keep you healthy for as long as possible. Do everything you can to identify and avoid triggers that may flare your disease, including sun exposure and lack of sleep. 

Following are eight of the most common serious complications of lupus, as well as tips on how to protect yourself against disease progression

Kidney failure

Usually, kidney problems in lupus are identified during a urinalysis. However, you may notice swollen ankles or legs due to fluid build-up. Severe kidney damage could result in the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Cognitive, memory, and brain problems

Lupus can attack any organ, including the brain. In addition to headaches or migraines, you may experience trouble remembering things or thinking clearly. You could also experience a seizure or a stroke.

Blood abnormalities

Lupus can change the shape and function of your blood cells. Your red blood cells, which carry oxygen, can be affected or depleted, leading to anemia. White blood cells, which attack intruders, and platelets, which clot your blood, may also malfunction.

Cardiovascular disease

Pericarditis, or inflammation of the sac that holds the heart, is the most common cardiac complication of lupus. With lupus, you’re at increased risk for atherosclerosis, damaged heart valves, and inflammation of the heart muscle itself.

Pneumonia and other lung problems

Approximately 1 in 3 people who have lupus experience inflammation in the tissue that surrounds the lungs. You may also have chest pain when you breathe. 


You could be more at risk for a life-threatening infection if you have lupus. You should get an annual flu shot, pneumonia vaccine, and Td/Tdap vaccine. Other vaccines may not be safe for you. Be sure to take precautions during flu season or during a surge in the pandemic.


Having lupus slightly increases your risk for certain types of cancers. 

Bone fractures

Lupus sometimes cuts off the blood supply to bones, which may cause hairline fractures throughout the bones. The bones may eventually fracture or collapse.


How to prevent complications

We help you make the lifestyle changes you need to keep your body as healthy, fit, and flare-free as possible. We also make sure you get the customized medications you need, depending on your symptoms and severity of the disease. 

Lifestyle changes that may reduce complications include:

Dr. Bolling may recommend one or more drug interventions to help keep you comfortable and reduce symptoms and damage from the disease. Some options include:

Lupus doesn’t go away. The only way to slow its progression is to take your disease seriously and get the medical help you need to prevent complications and organ damage. 

If you have lupus, call us today for a diagnosis and customized lupus treatment plan at 301-352-0090. You can also request an appointment online.

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