Women and Lupus

Women and Lupus

Ever wonder why every 9 out of 10 people who have lupus are women?

We recently spoke with Dr. Eric Wood, a District of Columbia-licensed naturopathic physician and member of LupaVita’s Medical Advisory board to find out why this is the case.

“Women are said to considerably outnumber men with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) 9 times out of 10 because of estrogen levels and how those levels can be distributed throughout the body” (Wood 2017). No causal effect has been proven between estrogen and lupus, but many women have shown a spike in lupus symptoms before menstrual periods or during pregnancy when estrogen levels are high. In a typical process, estrogen works to regulate different cells, and when autoimmune disease contaminates these cells estrogen might not be able to help like it regularly does when healthy and unhealthy cells are trying to differentiate each other.

The environment is also said to play a factor in the onset of lupus. Diet, infections, and pollutants are said to cause genes to trigger lupus. The disease itself is in part genetic, but has no clear pattern of inheritance. Dr. Wood recommends working on healthy digestive and hormonal balances to decrease the onset of an autoimmune condition or flare. “It is important to read your levels and understand what your body is telling you to help stay healthy and flare free” (Wood 2017).

How does autoimmune disease affect pregnant women?

Planning ahead is vital for women with lupus who are trying to have a baby. The disease should be under control for six months before the beginning of the pregnancy to avoid miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious issues. The baby will not have autoimmune conditions, but as mentioned above, he or she will be at a slight risk for genetic onset of lupus sometime throughout his or her lifetime. Because lupus patients experience conditions like leaky gut and immune system overworking, the baby is at an increased risk for food and environmental allergies because of the affected delivery of nutrients. However, many women with lupus have normal pregnancies, and autoimmune conditions shouldn’t affect the delivery of the baby. It is important to find an obstetrician who can work closely with your doctor to ensure the pregnancy runs smoothly.

How does lupus affect women physically?

The visible effects from treatment can include weight gain, rashes, or ulcers. It is important to understand the medications you are taking and the risks and benefits associated with them. If your symptoms begin to subside, you and your doctor may find it useful to reduce the dosage or change medicines. In addition, pain and fatigue are among the most common physical ailments experienced by lupus patients. Fatigue can be dealt with by exercising in small increments. Additionally, alternative therapies including acupuncture and cryotherapy have been seen as a popular treatment for pain.

How does lupus affect women mentally?

Lupus Fog is the forgetfulness and difficulty thinking among people with lupus. This feeling of fuzziness is usually present when autoimmune symptoms are acting up, resulting in feelings of frustration. In addition, depression and social isolation are seen commonly in women with lupus. Many women with lupus tend to feel that no one understands what they are going through or they may feel to too weak to participate in regular social activities and are generally having a hard time accepting that their path has changed. It is important to accept this new path and embrace something new to try, like taking a class, painting, or writing.