Difficulty breathing can sometimes be an early symptom of lupus. According to LiveStrong.com, lupus breathing problems can vary from chest pain, wheezing, and/or shortness of breath. Sometimes symptoms worsen when you attempt to inhale.
Lupus is a systemic disease, which means that it can affect almost every part of the body and can bring about a number of different conditions. Lupus-Support.org.uk states “The lungs are frequently involved and can be the initial presenting complaint or occur late in the course of established disease. The seriousness of lung involvement varies from that which produces no symptoms and has no consequence to potentially very serious changes.”
Causes of Lupus Breathing Problems
The website, Lupus-Support.org.uk, goes on to state that lupus breathing problems, or problems which affect the lungs, have been reported in half of all lupus patients. Bleeding, inflammation, congestion are typically the reasons for lupus breathing problems. Damage to the blood vessels and thickening of the lung wall are also often seen. Common causes of lupus breathing problems are:
Pleural Disease – This is inflammation of the lung lining. The pain is described as having a knife-like quality; however, the condition has been seen in patients who did not recall having any chest pain at all.
Acute Lupus Pneumonitis – This is an inflamed lung. This type of lung disease affects about 5% of all lupus patients. Symptoms include shortness of breath, couch, rapid breathing, and/or coughing up blood.
Pulmonary/Alveolar hemorrhage – This is bleeding in the lungs. This is very rare, but very dangerous. The symptoms of this condition are similar to those of acute lupus pneumonitis, but in this case coughing up blood is much more serious.
Diffuse Interstitial Lung Disease – This is a complication which is often found with rheumatoid arthritis, but does affect some lupus patients as well. Chronic cough without sputum and shortness of breath with only mild exertion are common symptoms of this condition.
Pulmonary Embolism – In this condition a blood clot is formed in the veins or the calf, breaks off, and ends up in the lungs. This can cause death to a small part of the lung. Anyone can develop this condition, but it is more common in lupus patients.
Pulmonary Hypertension – This is high blood pressure in the lungs. It is rare and most cases are usually mild. Shortness of breath, chronic cough, and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms.
Shrinking lung syndrome – This is a chronic condition in which the amount of lung capacity available for gas exchange is reduced, yet diaphragm and chest X-rays seem normal. Shortness of breath is the main symptom of this lupus breathing problem.
Airflow Limitation – Narrowing of the airways is seen in a number of lupus patients, but is most commonly associated with people who smoke cigarettes. It can occur in non-smokers as well. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and fatigue of the muscles that are used in breathing.
Infection of the Lungs – Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia are the most common cause of lupus breathing problems. Steroid and immunosuppressive drug therapies make the risk of these types of problems more prominent for lupus patients.