Shortness of breath could be an indication that your lungs or your heart have been affected by Lupus. The main symptoms and signs of heart or lung involvement are chest pain (sometimes on deep breathing-in), shortness of breath, cough, and ankle swelling. The commonest manifestations of lupus in the heart and lungs are in the linings of these organs, the pleura and pericardium.
Pleurisy is common in lupus - estimates vary between 30 and 60% of all patients at some time suffering 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.
Other lung conditions are less common than involvement of the linings of the lungs (pleura). In a small number of patients a scarring occurs in the lungs, so-called fibrosis. This can be detected both clinically or on chest X-ray or scan. It produces shortness of breath, especially on exercise. Another rare manifestation of lupus in the lung is the so-called 'shrinking lung' where on chest X-ray the lung areas look smaller than normal. These are all signs of active disease and require treatment.
The Heart - Pericarditis
The pericardium or tissue membrane surrounding the heart is identical to the pleura surrounding the lungs and is also frequently inflamed. Classically, the pain is in the centre of the chest at the front and sometimes mistaken by patient and doctor for a heart attack. It can be detected clinically or on chest X-ray or echocardiogram. Fortunately, it rarely causes damage to the underlying heart and responds to steroids (such as Prednisone).
It is advisable that you notify your doctor, immediately, about your symptoms so that he can determine what the cause is and start treatment right away.
Please let us know what your doctor determines and how you are doing.
Peace and Blessings
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