The symptoms of lupus are common in women, but what is lupus, and what do lupus symptoms in men look like? Lupus is an autoimmune disease that will often take the form of systemic lupus erythematosus (LSE), which accounts for about 70% of all lupus cases. It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from lupus, according to the Lupus Foundation of America.
In the disease, antibodies in the immune system will wrongfully identify the body’s tissues as foreign and attack them. The most common areas of the body it will attack include the brain, kidneys, blood, lungs, skin, joints, and the heart. This will cause pain and inflammation as a result.
Lupus Symptoms in Men
Lupus is a difficult condition to diagnose, because no single blood test will confirm lupus, and many symptoms mimic other conditions like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, depression, bacterial and viral infections, multiple sclerosis, and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
On top of that, lupus in men is a little different from women. In all lupus cases, 90% occur in women, typically of childbearing age. Approximately 150,000 men are thought to have lupus, and although only 10% of lupus cases are men, some symptoms are more common in men than women. The following are some of the symptoms of lupus in men.
1. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE): In general, this is more common in women, but certain symptoms have been noted more often in men, such as scaly and reddish skin. Red patches of skin can come and go in cycles, but sometimes they will leave scars on the scalp that prevents hair from growing. Although DLE can be an annoyance, it is not an immediate threat to a person’s health.
2. Hemolytic anemia: Hemolytic anemia is a condition where red blood cells are killed and later removed from the bloodstream before the end of their lifespan. Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cells die off faster than the body’s bone marrow can replace them. Lupus is a possible cause of hemolytic anemia, and therefore they have similar symptoms. Some of the common symptoms in men include headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, confusion, fever, fatigue, pale skin, chest pain, and coldness of the feet and hands.
3. Lupus anticoagulant: Lupus anticoagulants are antibodies that promote abnormal or excessive blood clotting by attacking the fats in the membranes of cells. People with these antibodies are thought to be at risk of blood clots. There may not be any noticeable physical symptoms; however, men at risk of lupus anticoagulant may find blood clotting in their lungs or legs, and they may even suffer a stroke as a result.
4. Seizures: A seizure is a change in the brain’s electrical activity, and it is often linked with epilepsy. Severe seizure symptoms are commonly recognized, like loss of control and violent shaking. Warning signs before a seizure will include vision changes, dizziness, sudden anxiousness, and an upset stomach. In a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 1990, researchers found that men with lupus have seizures more often than the women.
5. Kidney disease: In that same study, men were also found to have kidney failure (also known as kidney disease) more often than the women. In the case of lupus, the condition is called lupus nephritis. Symptoms of lupus nephritis include high blood pressure, blood in the urine, and swelling of the feet and legs. Other studies have also found that lupus nephritis is more common in men than women, including one published in the journal Lupus in 2011.
6. Pleurisy: Pleurisy is a condition that results from swelling of the lung and chest linings. Inflammation of the lung sacs will cause lung pain and shortness of breath. Autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are considered possible causes of pleurisy. Other symptoms related to pleurisy include coughing, sneezing, fever, headaches, chills, sore throats, and muscle and joint pain.
Besides those symptoms, there are other common lupus signs, including:
- Unusual and consistent headaches, confusion, or memory loss
- Breathing problems like chest pain or shortness of breath
- A butterfly-shaped skin rash across the face and nose
- Sores inside the mouth
- Puffy or dry eyes
- Joint pain and swelling
- Raynaud’s Syndrome: the fingers, toes, or tip of the nose will turn blue or white from stressful situations or exposure to cold
- Digestion problems such as vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain
- Fatigue and unexplained fevers
Causes of Lupus in Men
The causes of lupus are not fully understood, and no one knows the exact cause. Conventional medicine often focuses on what triggers lupus symptoms. These lupus flare-ups can be caused by viral and bacterial infections, and periods of extreme stress. Certain medications may also trigger lupus such as quinidine, hydralazine, and procainamide.
A holistic approach to lupus will address other potential causes of the condition, including nutritional deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, food allergies, and digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome. Hormonal imbalances are also considered a treatable cause of lupus, especially in men. The sex hormones androgen and estrogen are thought to play a role. Estrogen is thought to possibly promote autoimmune disorders such as lupus, while androgen might help prevent them, therefore higher levels of estrogen may explain why lupus is more common in women, while low androgen levels in men may lead to the development of lupus.
Natural Approach to Lupus
How are lupus symptoms in men treated? Doctors will use a wide variety of prescription drugs throughout a lupus patient’s life, such as corticosteroids, antimalarials, and anti-inflammatories. On the downside, these drugs produce various side effects including weight gain, high blood pressure, an upset stomach, and kidney problems, among others.
Fortunately, there is also a natural approach to treat lupus. For example, fish oil supplementation has been found to benefit lupus symptoms, according to a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2004. Plant sterols and sterolins are naturally occurring chemicals that help balance the immune system of those with autoimmune diseases like lupus. Other natural remedies used for lupus include vitamin D3, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), digestive enzymes, high-potency probiotics, and digestive enzymes. Certain herbs are also used for the condition like boswellia, turmeric, milk thistle, ginkgo biloba, and devil’s claw.
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