Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients are more vulnerable to infections which can lead to mortality. Researchers found that hospitalizations of lupus patients due to serious infections are on the rise.
SLE, lupus, is an autoimmune disease where the immune system overreacts and attacks healthy joints and organs. Often these patients much take immunosuppressants in order to reduce symptoms but in turn this increases their risk of developing serious infections because their immune system is weak and thus cannot fight off viruses or bacteria. Common infections which SLE patients experience are pneumonia, sepsis, and urinary tract and skin infections.
Serious infections are a serious threat to SLE patients as it increases their risk of mortality and accounts for 13 to 37 percent of hospitalizations and one-third of deaths.
The research team proposes that guidelines be set into place in order to better prevent and manage infections in SLE patients and that early diagnosis is essential in order to minimize complications and death.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) mortality can be caused by infections
Infections are the most common cause of mortality and hospitalizations for SLE patients. In a large European study of 1,000 patients, 25 percent of deaths were due to infection and 26.5 percent of cases were of active SLE. In order to prevent complications and reduce the risk of hospitalization and mortality in SLE patients it’s important to remember the following:
- Get the flu shot annually
- Pneumococcal vaccine
- Regular pap smears
- Tuberculosis skin test prior to beginning immunosuppressant drugs
- Hepatitis B serology
- Hepatitis C serology
- HIV serology
- Screening for strongyloides prior to beginning immunosuppressant drugs
Manage infection in lupus patients
Aside from the screening, vaccine and testing listed above there are other means in managing infections in lupus patients along with better preventing them. Prevention tips of infections in lupus patients include:
- Washing your hands after handling objects, shaking hands with other or prior to handling or preparing food
- Treat cuts and wounds immediately
- Practice a high level of personal hygiene
- Clean your house thoroughly and regularly
- Avoid using items which commonly harbor germs like dish towels or sponges
- Avoid contact with others who have an infection or who are sick
- Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet
- Monitor your temperature daily
- Contact your doctor prior to any surgical procedure in case you need to start a regime of antibiotics
Infection in lupus patient’s treatment and diagnosis
Symptoms of many infections may present themselves similarly to that of lupus and so they may go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed which delays treatment and increases the risk of complications.
Chronic low fevers may be normal for many lupus patients and so that increases the importance of taking your temperature daily to determine what is normal for you and when you should see a doctor. Other methods to help better diagnose an infection in lupus patients include:
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Chest x-ray
- Cultures of the throat, blood, urine or stool
When treating an infection in a lupus patient compared to someone without the autoimmune disease, treatment may be longer and pose more complications. Bacterial infections are commonly treated with antibiotics which may even occur through intravenous in a hospital setting if serious enough.
Nearly 30 percent of lupus patients will experience an allergic reaction to sulpha antibiotics and so this type of antibiotic should be avoided as much as possible.
Practicing prevention tips and keeping in contact with your doctor can help prevent complications associated with infection and in turn reduce your risk of mortality due to infection.
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