How Lupus Affects the Aging Process

Find Out How Lupus Affects the Aging Process and Vice Versa

Patient explaining wrist pain to nurse in clinic
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Lupus and aging can affect each other.

You probably know that lupus is a life-long illness. What you may not know is how the disease will treat you as you grow older.

We'll review some of the most important ways that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) affects the aging process, as well as the reverse - how getting older can affect your disease.

Here are five facts associated with lupus and aging.

1. Symptom Activity Tends to Improve with Age.

As a person ages, lupus activity - or the degree of inflammation and auto-immunity present - typically declines.

This may lead to adjustments in treatment, including a possible reduction in medication.

On the flip side, the severity of the disease can increase. This is the sum of your disease activity in the past, including the damage it has caused. This could lead to physical therapy, joint replacements or other non-pharmacological treatments as you age.

2. Osteoporosis Is Common In Patients with Lupus.

Osteoporosis tends to result from age-related bone loss. If you have lupus, you're at increased risk for osteoporosis. Here’s why:

  • Certain treatments for lupus, such as glucocorticoid medications (Prednisone), can cause bone loss.
  • A sedentary lifestyle due to pain caused by lupus can increase osteoporosis risk.
  • There's a possible link between lupus and bone loss.

Studies suggest that there's an increase in bone loss and fracture in individuals with lupus. In fact, women with lupus may be five times more likely to experience a fracture from osteoporosis.

Your weight, genetics and whether or not you smoke also contribute to your bone loss and osteoporosis risk.

3. Hormone Replacement Therapy Needs to Be Considered Carefully.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which many postmenopausal women consider, can increase the flare rate for women with lupus. Most flares associated with HRT are considered mild to moderate.

It's more concerning that women with lupus have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots, and HRT further increases that risk. Women with inactive lupus may be able to consider a short course of low-dose HRT under their doctor's supervision.

4. Older Patients Are Less Likely to Develop Lupus Nephritis.

When lupus affects the kidneys, it's called lupus nephritis. Studies show that older patients are less likely to suffer from kidney diseases associated with lupus but there are no strong conclusions as to why. For those that do encounter kidney issues, at any age, the treatment is the same.

5. Lupus Can Go Into Remission At Any Age.

While many people believe that lupus can disappear in later age, remission can occur at any age. An Italian study published in 2015 found that more than one-third of patients with lupus who got standard treatment went into remission for at least five years.


Prolonged Remission Now Possible in Lupus. Medscape. August 2, 2015.

Lupus Foundation of America. November 14, 2007

Conditions and Behaviors that Increase Osteoporosis Risk. The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. November 2006.

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