Even though lupus and arthritis are different medical conditions that occur in the body, having lupus often increases the chance of developing arthritis or joint pain in people. The causes for the occurrence and the methods of treatment for both these conditions are often different, and people should be aware of the difference between these conditions for the same reason.
Even though there is a genetic link between arthritis and lupus, there are also some major genetic differences between the two. There are many things to know about the connection between arthritis and lupus, a few of which are discussed below.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that is characterized by the overactivity of the immune system in the body that often attacks the healthy parts of the body by mistake. The major parts of the body that could be impacted by this condition include mucous membrane, skin, brain, blood, joints and bones, and internal organs such as kidneys. Lupus can often have severe effects on the human body but it can also vary according to individuals.
Over 1.5 million people in the US have been estimated to have lupus and this condition is most common in women who are aged between 15 and 44. Even when there are different types of lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus account for seventy percent of lupus symptoms and cases.
What is Arthritis?
Like lupus, arthritis is also a chronic health condition and it affects over 54.4 million people in the US. This condition often causes pain and inflammation in the joints of the body and the symptoms tend to worsen over time leading to causing permanent damage to the joints. Arthritis usually begins to develop in people who are above the age of 45.
The two common types of arthritis include Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the joints are mistakenly attacked by the immune system. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the protective tissues are degraded slowly due to wear and tear; this often causes much lower levels of inflammation in the joints.
The connection between Lupus and Arthritis
Lupus often causes inflammation throughout the body which also includes the joint, meaning that the condition can trigger arthritis. Joint pain or arthritis referred by most doctors as arthralgia is one of the common symptoms of lupus.
People having lupus mostly develop arthralgia along with many other symptoms including fatigue and rashes on the skin. Lupus triggers a form of arthritis which is different from the one which is caused due to rheumatoid arthritis. However, a small percentage of people having lupus will suffer from severe joint involvement; this complication is very rare and is often referred to as rhupus.
The major differences between rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis that is caused due to lupus are that lupus is not erosive and is less severe compared to rheumatoid arthritis. The primary joints that are affected by both these conditions are also different.
Arthritis mostly affects parts such as hands, knees, elbows, shoulders, and feet of the person who has lupus.
A genetic link is also assumed between lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disorder. More studies and researches are required for understanding the triggering factors that are responsible for these conditions.
Diagnosis of Lupus and Arthritis
Both the conditions – lupus and arthritis are diagnosed based on their symptoms. Conducting blood tests can be helpful in diagnosis. Rheumatologists initially will consider the medical history of the patient and conduct a physical examination thereafter to look for signs of reductions and inflammation in the affected joints.
Blood tests will mostly be recommended by most doctors to see the blood cell count, and the type and density of antibodies present in the blood. It can also help to analyze and determine the nature and severity of the condition. Lab tests that are used to measure inflammation like CRP or ESR tests are used by most doctors for supporting the evidence of flare.
The CRP or ESR tests often enable doctors to measure the level of inflammation in the joints. They are also helpful in tracking the disease activity.
Most of the cases, rheumatologists would recommend imaging tests like ultrasound, X-rays, MRI or CT scans to examine the joint tissues and internal organs of the patient.
In the diagnosis of lupus, most rheumatologists recommend CT scanning when the patient is suspected to have swollen lymph nodes or lung diseases. They may also recommend a biopsy in rare cases.
Even though no absolute cures are found for arthritis and lupus to date, some treatments are seen to have effects on people in managing the symptoms of both these conditions that help in reducing further joint or organ damages. The treatment strategies usually include taking medication and changes in the lifestyle. Some people also might require surgery for correcting the joint damages and preventing further damages to joints.