October 15, 2020

Why Is Lupus More Common in Females?

Why Is Lupus More Common in Females?

Lupus in Women

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects more women than men. With lupus, your immune system attacks your body’s tissues, causing inflammation, pain, and potential damage to healthy cells, tissues, or organs. While lupus can affect any part of the body, it most commonly attacks your skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood cells, kidneys, and brain.

Why’s Lupus More Common in Females?

While the exact answer’s not known, it’s thought that sex hormones play a large roll in why lupus is more common in women. Estrogen, which is commonly associated with women, and androgen, which is commonly associated with men are produced in both sexes. Estrogen is believed to encourage the development of autoimmune disorders and the higher levels in women may be one reason why lupus is more prevalent in women. 

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What Are the Symptoms of Lupus?

Lupus symptoms usually come and go, meaning that you won’t have them all of the time. It’s a disease of flares and remissions, where the symptoms include:

  • Muscle and joint pain. You can experience pain and stiffness, with or without swelling. Common areas affected include the neck, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms.
  • Fever. Many people with lupus can experience a fever higher than 100 degrees, which is usually caused by inflammation or infection. Lupus medications can help manage and prevent fever.
  • Rashes. You may experience rashes on parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. One common sign of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks.
  • Chest pain. Lupus can cause lung inflammation, which causes chest pain when breathing deeply.
  • Hair loss. Patchy or bald spots may occur. This can be caused by medicines or infection.
  • Sun or light sensitivity. Most people with lupus are sensitive to light and can experience rashes, fever, fatigue, or joint pain.
  • Kidney problems. Half of those with lupus also experience kidney problems, known as nephritis. Symptoms include swelling in the ankles, high blood pressure, and decreased kidney function.
  • Mouth sores. These sores, also called ulcers, typically appear on the roof of your mouth, but can also appear on your gums, inside your cheeks, and on your lips.
  • Prolonged fatigue. It’s not uncommon to feel tired or exhausted even after you’ve had enough sleep. This can also be a warning sign that you’re about to have a lupus flare-up.
  • Anemia. Fatigue could be a sign of anemia, a condition that happens when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
  • Memory problems. Forgetfulness or confusion can affect some people with lupus.
  • Blood clotting. Lupus can increase your risk of blood clotting, which can cause clots in your legs and lungs, stroke, heart attack, or repeated miscarriages.
  • Eye disease. Dry eyes, inflammation, and eyelid rashes can also occur.

Symptoms of Lupus in Young Females

Lupus is a varying disease from person to person, so the symptoms will be different from patient to patient. Compared with adults, children with lupus are more likely to have problems with vital organs, especially the kidneys and brain. These symptoms can include:

  • Dark urine
  • Swelling around the feet, legs, and eyelids
  • Kidney inflammation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain (lung inflammation, or pleuritis)
  • Headaches
  • Memory problems
  • Seizures (brain inflammation, or cerebritis)

Lupus in Older Females

Although the age of onset of lupus is typically between 15 and 44 years old, up to 25% of people diagnosed with lupus have late-onset lupus, which affects about eight times more women than men. The symptoms of late-onset lupus vary slightly and include:

  • A lower incidence of malar rash
  • Kidney issues that appear sooner than in early-onset lupus
  • Dry eyes
  • Muscle and joint pain

The options for your lupus medications are the same regardless of your age, but those with late-onset lupus may need different dosages than younger patients. This will depend on your other medications and other health conditions you may have. 

Learn More About Lupus

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms described above, learn more about causes and treatment for lupus, including how it affects younger women by talking to your Baptist Health provider.

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