Individuals who suffer from lupus know the agony the disease causes. Though treatment has improved in recent years, the disease is extremely deadly in its most serious form. Other ailments can create even greater concern for individuals who suffer from lupus. Therefore, avoiding some of the more common conditions that individuals face is crucial to successful treatment of lupus. Infection is one common ailment that poses great concern for those with lupus, and it often comes in the form of a sinus infection.
Lupus sufferers face an attack on their own bodies by their immune systems. The chronic inflammatory disease occurs when the immune system attacks tissues and organs. This causes the inflammation, which can impact joints, skin, blood cells, the kidneys, lungs and heart. When individuals have severe lupus, it often leads to death. Doctors, though, have had success using drugs to treat lupus. These drugs suppress the immune system, making it less capable of attacking the body’s organs.
Lupus comes in four forms. The worst form is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. It can affect nearly any part of the body. SLE is often the form of lupus that leads to a diagnosis. Discoid lupus erythematosus only affects the skin. Drug-induced lupus is caused by certain medications that treat other ailments. It usually dissipates when you stop taking the medication. Neonatal lupus is a rare form that develops in newborns.
Sinus infections result from multiple conditions. They can be viral or bacterial. For example, they can develop from a common cold. They also can be a symptom of viral flu, including the H1N1 virus. Sinus infections lead to inflammation of the nasal passages, which blocks the drainage of the sinuses.
When a sinus infection occurs, the body’s white blood cells work to fight the infection, but that isn’t the case for individuals who are being treated for lupus. According to Dr. Donald E. Thomas Jr., who practices in Maryland, the immune system of those who are treated for lupus is suppressed. The suppression keeps the immune system from attacking the body’s organs, but it also keeps the immune system from properly attacking infections. This leads to an increased potential for the spread of infection.
Thomas said those at greatest risk are individuals who have SLE and receive the greatest doses of medication and, thus, have the greatest suppression of their immune systems. Thomas says individuals who die during the first few years after a lupus diagnosis usually die from a combination of the lupus and major infection. He estimates that an infection plays a role in 20 to 50 percent of deaths that occur among lupus patients.
According to Thomas, successful treatment of lupus relies heavily on knowing the potential complications that occur with the disease. Only then can individuals take steps to avoid the hazards and be aware of the need for treatment if a situation poses a particular concern. Thomas says one way to alleviate the concern over infection is to use other treatments to fight lupus. He says patients should take Plaquenil, a drug that treats lupus without suppressing the immune system. He notes that sunscreen also is necessary. It blocks the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which increase lupus symptoms.
Thomas also recommends vaccinations, which can stop some infections before they occur. A pneumonia vaccine called Pneumovax is vitally important, says Thomas. The vaccine should be given to patients at least twice, with a 5-year stretch between vaccinations. SLE sufferers also should have a flue shot each year. Thomas stresses that it does not cause flu in individuals who receive the shot. Thomas said in September 2009 that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended the H1N1 vaccine for individuals with SLE who are 6 months to 64 years of age.
While vaccinations can help, though, some are to be avoided. Live virus vaccines such as MMR, given to protect against measles, mumps and rubella and the polio, yellow fever and typhoid vaccines must be avoided by those with SLE.