Lupus erythematosus is caused by a hyperactive immune system which attacks healthy tissues in the body. There are several types of lupus but systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) accounts for about 70% of all cases. In cases of systemic lupus, the immune system attacks different body system which results in joint, chest and abdominal pain. There is no cure for lupus which means that people with this condition require long-term medication to control their symptoms. The focus of lupus treatment plans is often on the physical symptoms but lupus can also have a severe impact on mental health.
The link between lupus and mental health
Lupus patients often experience a broad range of neuropsychiatric symptoms including anxiety, depression, seizures, and psychosis. It is important to understand how lupus can affect your mental and emotional state so that you can take steps to protect your mental health.
Lupus affects brain function
Lupus causes the immune system to attack the body’s tissues and organs. This results in the release of proteins called cytokines which trigger additional immune activity. Earlier, it was believed that these cytokines could not reach the brain but recent animal tests show that they can get into the brain and damage neural synapses. Damage to neural synapses can impact every aspect of what we think and feel in everyday life. This is why people who suffer from lupus are at an increased risk of cognitive decline and anxiety. The good news is that researchers say that these lupus symptoms can be reduced with medication (called an anti-IFNAR) that prevents these cytokines from entering the brain.
Lupus is linked to psychosis
Lupus causes systemic inflammation and when it affects the brain it can lead to seizures, stroke or psychosis. Psychosis is the disruption in an individual’s perceptions and thoughts which result in a loss of contact with reality. Delusions and hallucinations are a common problem for these people which makes it difficult for them to differentiate between what is real and what isn’t. Psychosis is one of the criteria used by doctors for the diagnosis of lupus. Studies show that approximately 22% of all lupus patients will experience psychosis at some point. Psychosis in lupus patients can also occur as a side effect to steroid medications such as prednisone and prednisolone.
Chronic pain can lead to depression
Chronic pain is one of the most common symptoms of lupus as over 75% of lupus patients suffer from chronic joint, abdominal or chest pain. In recent years, researchers discovered that chronic pain can induce depression – up to 85% of patients with chronic pain also suffer from severe depression. Living with the daily pain and fatigue caused by lupus results in a constant state of stress and depression. In addition to prescribing antidepressant medication, your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes and refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist to help you cope with these issues.