You are correct, the heart and lungs are frequently affected in people with Lupus. Sometimes, the problmes with these organs can cause a variety of problems, ranging from mild to serious or even life-threatening.
These complications are known as cardiopulmonary (cardio = heart; pulmonary = lung). The primary cause of these problems is the inflammation that Lupus causes.
Some cardio-pulmonary problems that can occur in Lupus are:
* Pericarditis: inflammation of the lining of the heart
* Myocarditis: inflammation of the tissue of the heart
* Coronary vasculitis: inflammation of blood vessels in the heart
* Pleuritis: inflammation of the sac around the lung
* Pulmonary Hypertension: blockage in the arteries of the lungs
* Pneumonitis: inflammation of the lung
* Pulmonary emboli: blood clots in the lung
Lupus can involve all parts of the heart: The Pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart); the Myocardium (the muscle layer of the heart); The Endocardium (the lining of the inside of the heart); and the Coronary arteries that take blood to the heart.
Pericarditis, or inflammation of the sac around the heart, is the most common heart involvement in people with lupus. This condition occurs when antigen-antibody complexes-also known as immune complexes-are made during active lupus and cause inflammation within the pericardium. The symptoms are: Sharp chest pain that can change with changes in your body's position and frequently may be relieved by leaning forward slightly; this chest pain may feel like a heart attack: Shortness of breath.
Pericarditis is usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. If anti-inflammatory drug therapy is unsuccessful, doctors may prescribe a brief course of corticosteroid treatment (such as Prednisone).
Sometimes Pericarditis can be due to an infection or to kidney failure. If this is the case, then the treatment is different than if it is due to just your lupus.
Pulmonary Hypertension begins when tiny arteries in your lungs become narrow or blocked. This causes increased resistance to the flow of blood in the lungs, which in turn raises pressure within the pulmonary arteries. As the pressure builds, your heart's lower right chamber (right ventricle) must work harder to pump blood through your lungs, eventually causing the heart muscle to weaken and sometimes to fail completely.
The signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension are subtle in the early stages of the disease and may not be apparent for months or even years. As the disease progresses, signs and symptoms become more noticeable. They include:
* Shortness of breath (dyspnea). Initially, you may notice that you're short of breath only when you exert yourself physically, but eventually you may be short of breath most of the time, even when you're at rest.
* Dizziness or fainting spells (syncope).
* Chest pressure or pain.
* Swelling (edema) in your ankles, legs and eventually in your abdomen (ascites).
* Bluish color to your lips and skin (cyanosis).
* Racing pulse or heart palpitations.
Pulmonary hypertension resulting directly from another medical problem is called secondary pulmonary hypertension. Lupus is one of the diseases that can cause secondary pulmonary hypertension.
Pleurisy is common in lupus. Up to 60% of all Lupus patients, at some time, suffer from inflammation of the lining of the chest. The symptom is pain - often a 'catching' pain on taking a deep breath. More severe forms of inflammation and pleurisy produce fluid, so-called pleural effusions. Any fluid in the chest takes useful breathing space away, therefore causing shortness of breath. Pleurisy can be detected clinically and on chest X-ray. Fortunately, it usually responds rapidly to a short course of steroids.
The heart and lungs are not the most commonly affected organs in lupus but pericarditis and pleurisy are often extremely distressing. Fortunately they respond well to steroid treatment.
It is probably a good idea that you talk about your symptoms with your doctor so that you and he can determine exactly what the cause of your pain is. Remember, all of these conditions respond well to treatment, but you should begin treatment soon so that your symptoms do not worsen.
I wish you the very best!
Peace and Blessings
Look For The Good and Praise It!